Monday, 18 July 2016

Safe space supping

For many years, there was a strange anomaly that the centre of Manchester, unlike that of any other major UK city outside London, was divided between three CAMRA branches. North Manchester and Trafford & Hulme both had a large chunk, with Stockport & South Manchester holding a smaller segment in the south-eastern corner. This obviously made it more difficult to put across a united CAMRA voice in the city, and meant that many commuters who often drank in the city centre found themselves living in a different branch with which they felt little connection.

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.

The very people that talk about buying local and then wonder why everything near them is closing down and boarded up.

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 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.

23 comments:

  1. Be careful what you wish for, Stockport's appeal (as long as the Heatons don't establish a sub-branch) is not just the contrasts, but the fact you actually visit the estate locals. I don't see much of that in other branches, at least on an organised basis.

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  2. Can we leave it to you to check out the rough arsed pubs? Not sure I can be arsed with that, myself.

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    1. So you'll be supporting the creation of the Central Stockport, Heatons and Didsbury Branch, then?

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    2. I'm off to create my own branch with 1 pub in it. It'll be dead good.

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    3. I have checked out every rough pub in North Manchester and quite enjoyed doing it along with all the rough pubs in Salford, Thameside and East Manchester,i could go on and on about the areas of GM i have pretty much completed.
      It is a shame that the North Manchester branch as lost the city centre,i subscribed to their drinker for well over five years,it gave me loads of help while trying to do every pub in Manchester,their guides to all areas of North Manchester,Salford,Oldham,Rochdale and Bury were a great help while doing my regular pub crawls up there.
      The South Manchester area was not covered well at all in the 90s,when doing Wythenshawe i was having to ask at every pub i found where the next nearest pub was.

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    4. While I'd be the first to admit that Wythenshawe has not historically been covered well by Stockport & South Manchester Branch, nothing has been done in terms of guides by North Manchester than hasn't been done for the south side. "Ale of Two Citie", which I think ran to two editions, covered the whole of Manchester and Salford.

      Also bear in mind that the third of Wythenshawe west of the M56 falls under Trafford & Hulme Branch.

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    5. I think Wythenshawe featured on one of the comprehensive pub lists that appears in What's Doing from time to time (I assume this is what Alan is alluding to). But in recent years there's not really been a great deal to cover - and what there has been is documented on WhatPub I think. The rest of South Manchester was pretty well covered I think.

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  3. In all the discussions I ever heard about setting up Central Manchester Branch, fobbing off shit pubs wasn't mentioned. Of course that might have been the idea, unspoken, behind it, but I somehow doubt it. You may be mixing up outcomes with intentions.

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    1. Oh, I don't think that was a conscious intention, but it is an outcome. I can't see the new branch doing SSM-style Staggers of Moston and Harpurhey.

      From a CAMRA politics point of view, the outcome was a reasonable compromise, although my preferred solution would have been for North Manchester to take over the entire City Centre within the IRR.

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  4. I'm just pleased the endless, and indeed narcoleptic, discussion is over. I'd just about lost the will to live.

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  5. A friend was bemoaning how hard it is to get people who live in the city centre out on a Sunday night. Having lived here for a while, my immediate reaction was to gawp at him and say something along the lines of "of course you can't get 'em out - nobody lives in the city centre, you daft wazzock!" But a moment's thought made me realise I was wrong - there are any number of places to live in the centre these days, just as long as you're childless and loaded. So maybe the City Centre Branch actually is a local branch for local people, not just after-work pub-crawlers.

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    1. While there undoubtedly has been a surge in residential development in the City Centre, the population within the IRR is probably still no more than that of a medium-sized market town. That isn't the key factor driving the rise in the number of bars. I also recall hearing that the number of CAMRA members affiliated to the Central Manchester branch who lived within the IRR was in single figures.

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    2. I know that we had two branch members resident within the IRR (neither of them were known to us). I think it is only since Central Manchester Branch took on the northern suburbs that some of its active members actually live within the branch boundaries.

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  6. I'll bet there were / will be some fun "discussions" regarding GBG allocations when branch areas change like this.

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    1. Not aware there's been much argument at all, as it's a matter of recorded fact how many pubs have been included for the various areas over each year. Stockport & South Manchester will lose either one or two, which isn't worth anyone getting worked up about.

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  7. Nothing to do with Camra but guides of lists of pubs that were published in the late 80s to mid nineties.
    I had complete lists for all North Manchester and the towns around it and also all of Salford and its outer areas like Irlam,i also had complete guides to all pubs in Thamside and Stockport areas.
    But i never found out any lists or guides to any pubs in South Manchester or east Manchester which covered areas like Openshawe in the East and Burnage,longsight and other areas of the City of Manchester in the south.
    I would love to find out where you found those lists as they would have been very helpfull to me at the time.
    I packed up doing pubs in Greater Manchester having a crawl round Leigh and only doing five real ale pubs on a 20 plus pub crawl.

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    1. As far as I recall the only pub lists at that time *were* produced by CAMRA - I certainly didn't see any others. The lists were not comprehensive either. I'm guessing you mean the "Real Ale in...." series that appeared as a supplement to What's Doing from time to time an they, by their very nature, included only real ale pubs. There certainly was one for South and East Manchester because I remember helping to compile it. I think your recollection of what these lists were and who produced them is incomplete.

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    2. Yes, I don't think anything has ever been done for North Manchester in terms of guides or lists that wasn't done for South or East Manchester.

      Wythenshawe won't have featured heavily on these pub lists as, at least during the CAMRA era, many of its pubs have always been keg-only.

      I remember doing a minibus pub crawl of Wythenshawe in the 1990s which visited such gems as the Portway, the Cornishman, the Silver Birch and the Anvil. An interesting night, but I wouldn't say any of the pubs were places I'd actually *choose* to drink in.

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    3. When i say a complete list or guide to pubs that means every pub in that area including keg only pubs.
      The Stokport guide listed all pubs in its area and the Thamside one did every pub including all keg pubs.
      The North Manchester and large towns around it like Oldham,Rochdale and Salford listed all pubs a pull out guide from their magazine,these listed all pubs including keg pubs.

      I loved doing the Portway,Cornishman,Silver Birch and Anvil,they were all proper estate pubs,which i love doing.

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    4. Your memory is definitely playing tricks. I still have three of the What's Doing supplements that you mention (Real Ale In Bolton, Rochdale and Oldham respectively)and, as their name suggests, they do not list the keg pubs. These lists were produced for all areas in Greater Manchester (and certainly ones covering East and South Manchester were done). The first actual comprehensive Stockport Pub Guide (Viaducts & Vaults) came out in about 1990-91. There is a very old Tameside Guide called "Nine Towns Bitter" which, I think, did the same. All of the Greater Manchester CAMRA guides were selective - there were, as far as I know, no non-CAMRA guides or lists at all.

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    5. Yes you are right John,so sorry about that,
      I do have the Nine Towns guide to all pubs in Thameside and a couple of the Viaducts and vaults guides which listed all pubs in the area.
      The North Manchester pull out guides from Whats Doing also listed all pubs.
      My mistake was with the Oldham and Rochdale pullout guides which only listed real ale pubs.
      I do have to Bolton guide which also only lists real ale pubs.
      I still have all of these guides and pull out ones to this day.

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  8. Forgive my Yankee ignorance, but what exactly does CAMRA *do* on behalf of these pubs? When you say that a chapter "covers" a certain pub, what does that mean, exactly? Thanks.

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    1. It keeps track of developments in the pub such as if it opens or closes, whether it serves real ale, which beers are served, changes of licensee etc.
      It supplies news about the pub for inclusion in local magazines such as "Opening Times".
      It maintains the pub's entry on WhatPub?
      It may consider the pub for Pub of the Month or Pub of the Year Awards.
      It maintains a record of NBSS scores for the pub and, if they're good enough, may include it in the "Good Beer Guide".
      Quite a lot, really.

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