The reasons for this split are lost in the mists of time, but after years of narcoleptic wrangling, a separate City Centre branch was set up earlier this year. One concern that was expressed was that to some extent it represented an exercise in cherry-picking, and could potentially suck the lifeblood out of the surrounding branches. For Stockport & South Manchester, any impact was peripheral, and Trafford & Hulme, while more affected, retains substantial centres of gravity in Chorlton and the various towns of Trafford Borough.
However, the impact has been more serious on North Manchester, which incorporated the fashionable “Northern Quarter” of the city centre. Apparently, north of the inner ring road, there were only fourteen pubs serving real ale in the entire part of Manchester it covered, and some of these were ones like the Marble Arch and Crown & Kettle that are on the fringe of the centre. That clearly wasn’t the basis of a viable branch, so what has happened is that Central Manchester has taken over the northern rump of the city, although keeping its name. North Manchester has reconstituted itself as a new City of Salford Branch, an area which it already covered.
Boozy Procrastinator makes the point in this blogpost that what this represents is in effect making the beer bubble flesh. All the exciting new bars of the central area have been detached from their less appealing hinterland for the benefit of the better-off commuters who drink there.
...it just so happens that like many apparently open minded, non-CAMRA beer drinkers, their snobby ways pushes them away from their local and apparently “rubbish” pubs and into those that serve their own narcissistic needs far more.Where and what people choose to drink as private individuals is entirely up to them, and as I’ve argued before, nobody can force people to take an interest in aspects of beer and pub culture that they don’t want to. But there does seem to be a degree of hypocrisy in an organisation that champions the value of local community pubs, but many of whose prominent members make a point of shunning them in favour of the bright lights of the big city.
The very people that talk about buying local and then wonder why everything near them is closing down and boarded up.
The geographical pattern of CAMRA branches is often less than rational, and reflects ancient rivalries and loyalties. Nobody in their right mind would come up with the High Peak, Tameside and North East Cheshire Branch. Local sensibilities have to be recognised, though, and St Albans would alienate many active members if it started behaving like a bunch of Victorian colonialists drawing logical-seeming lines on a map. Starting with a clean sheet of paper, a Manchester Branch covering the entire city from Wythenshawe to Blackley would make sense, but it’s not going to happen.
However, it seems a sound principle that every branch should be expected to do its share of the hard yards in unattractive and relatively inaccessible areas, rather than just picking out the best bits and leaving the rest either to be covered by some other poor saps or, worse still, completely ignored. They shouldn’t retreat into a cosy safe space where they never have to encounter rough-arsed blokes drinking Carling and John Smith’s in grotty estate boozers, or work out how to cover the pubs that are closed at lunchtimes from Monday to Friday but only have a daytime weekday bus service.