Monday, 4 March 2019

Youthquake

The March edition of CAMRA’s monthly newspaper What’s Brewing contained a long letter from seven representatives of young members’ groups complaining that the organisation wasn’t doing enough to encourage the participation of younger people. Specifically, it was accused of becoming a “pensioners’ drinking club” and being “riddled with accusations of sexism and cronyism.” Given the prominence given to the letter, it seems clear that it was to some degree encouraged by the CAMRA hierarchy.

However, it has emerged into the public domain and over the weekend generated pieces in both the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail, which didn’t exactly show the organisation in a good light. And the question must be asked whether, regardless of the substance of the complaints, the best way to advance them was in a way that came across as the divisive playing of identity politics and disrespectful of the older generation.

Like most other similar organisations, CAMRA has an ageing membership profile, and inevitably the general social ambiance and the activities it runs will reflect that. Experience has shown that events designed specifically to attract younger members have often fallen flat on their face, and run the risk of coming across as patronising. And what aspects of “campaigning for real ale” are specifically youth-oriented anyway? Do the younger members of the RSPB favour spotting different birds from their older colleagues? Is it actually helpful to create a kind of young people’s ghetto?

The general tenor of conversation will naturally follow the inclinations of those involved, but many of the accusations of sexism come across as overdone and manufactured by people who are setting out to seek offence. When we have widespread problems of rape gangs, sex trafficking and female genital mutilation, is it really worth getting worked up about a cartoon fox on a pumpclip? And it’s a bit rich complaining about sexism when you are yourself undertaking an exercise that could be regarded as an example of ageism.

While things may be different at a branch level, a visit to CAMRA’s online Discourse discussion forum will quickly reveal that the “modernisers” very much hold sway, and those of a more traditional bent are often given short shrift.

On the ground, it is true that a high proportion of positions are held by over-50s, which is going to become a growing problem in the coming years. But younger people are simply not coming forward to fill their shoes. I’d be very surprised if any branches were actively discouraging younger volunteers – they can’t afford to. It seems that kind of volunteer work in general no longer holds the attraction it once did – this isn’t a problem unique to CAMRA. In the long term, surely the best way to change things in any organisation is actually to get involved rather than just to complain from the sidelines.

Maybe this also indicates that last year’s much-vaunted Revitalisation project hasn’t actually solved anything, and indeed has left CAMRA less clear about what it actually stands for. As I’ve argued before, there is a fundamental divide between those who want it to support good beer in all forms (however defined) and those who want to concentrate on championing a particular distinctive British tradition. The two are mutually exclusive objectives, and the cracks can only be papered over so far. It could be considered to be rather like our two main political parties which recent months have shown to be composed of increasingly incompatible bedfellows.

29 comments:

  1. A case of " All flesh is as grass" i believe Mudgie ,
    Cheers
    Edd

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  2. Given the changes going on everywhere at present, it begs the question that stability has a lifetime and organisations can only continuously evolve so far before instability sets in. I guess history confirms this.

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  3. No one can give you control over CAMRA. If you are a man, you take it.

    Depose the codgers!

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  4. If CAMRA can have a young members' section, why not an old members' section? It would be great fun not having to constantly ask "am I allowed to say that?"

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    1. Therein lies the problem...

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    2. How about not saying sexist, racist or homophobic things? Just a thought...

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    3. But we can still call people gammons, no?

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    4. I suggest the term unsmoked gammon to more accurately identify this particular variety of CAMRA gammon.

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    5. Or just all agree to disagree?! Why do we have to resort to name calling? I get the last comments were tongue in cheek. But seriously. Why does beer have to be so divisive? It makes no sense. Its just fucking beer!!! I love craft beer and I love traditional real ale. For different reasons. There is no reason why the 2 cannot coexist without this toxic division. Its damaging the industry and it serves no one well. Get over yourselves, grow up and just enjoy a pint (of whatever beer you like). Life is too short for this nonsense!

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  5. The young will one day be old and then become interested in joining a pensioners drinking club perhaps? No reason to worry. The UK is ageing. The cohort of potentials for a pensioners club will get forever larger. CAMRA has a future playing to it's strengths. Forget about the youth. Old timers trudging around miserable run down pubs in the rain and scoring them will exist for so long as pensioners exist!

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  6. I left Camra when they supported the smoking ban. I had been a member from the start.

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    1. As I understand it they wisely remained neutral on the matter.

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    2. Remaining neutral on the issue that has represented the biggest threat to pubs in the lifetime of the organisation hardly suggests an organisation that actually believes in standing up for pubs. It proves that CAMRA are basically "beer puritans".

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    3. Neutral ?

      https://velvetgloveironfist.blogspot.com/2014/08/camra-still-ignoring-elephant-in-pub.html

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    4. They didn't campaign either way. The article above puts a positive spin on things, perhaps in an attempt at damage limitation. It's a pity it was wide of the mark. It's history now whatever.

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  7. Fair number of the CAMRAs seem to want the kids involved but when the kids get involved they don't want to hear their opinions, eh?. Why would the kids bother? So what if CAMRA survives? It's served its purpose. If it didn't exist you wouldn't create it. Let the pensioners go through the motions until they can't any longer and let it transform into a discount club. Free the kids to do what they consider meaningful and see whether they manage it or create another bourgeois beer club.

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  8. I left camra quite a few years ago as it no longer seemed relevant to me. I found so many of the members I came across at the time to be reactionary half wits. No all I must stress, but a sizeable amount. I'm an old bloke but I try not to have the outlook of an old bloke. And I think essentially that's the approach camra needs to adopt; a mature organisation with an inclusive ethos that is open to new ideas whilst holding onto that core belief in real ale.

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  9. I left camra quite a few years ago as it no longer seemed relevant to me. I found so many of the members I came across at the time to be reactionary half wits. No all I must stress, but a sizeable amount. I'm an old bloke but I try not to have the outlook of an old bloke. And I think essentially that's the approach camra needs to adopt; a mature organisation with an inclusive ethos that is open to new ideas whilst holding onto that core belief in real ale.

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  10. "CAMRA has an ageing membership profile" is undeniable.
    18 to 30 year olds make up about 27% of the UK's 18 to 70 population but account for only about 5% of CAMRA's membership, less than a fifth of what it 'should be'.

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  11. I'm not sure that traditional CAMRA has any real interest in new beer scenes other than attracting membership, its yesterdays organisation, why would the young be interested in the old ideals.

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  12. The social officer of my local branch of CAMRA was agonising over how to get young people involved in the campaign. He often highlights this to me (possibly because he sees me as representative of the younger generation - I'm 41). I happen to think CAMRA should stop beating itself up. The absence of young campaigners isn't down to anything CAMRA is or isn't doing in my opinion. But it is about older open-minded people (with the exception of some drinkers being cask-blinkered when it comes to defining good beer) trying to get young people on board who are increasingly militant and closed-minded. There might not be a future for CAMRA but I'd prefer to see people enjoying themselves doing what they're passionate about instead of trying to appeal by apologising for themselves. You older folk have DONE NOTHING WRONG.

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  13. This is the dying era for pubs
    This is the dying era for Cask Ale
    This is the dying era for CAMRA

    For everything there is birth, life and death.

    In death, space is created for new things to grow. Death is a renewal. The end of the tired and decrepit, the beginning of the fresh and vibrant.

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  14. Well, someone's never heard of the Young Ornithologists Club.

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  15. When you play the game of beards, you win or you die. There is no middle ground

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  16. The obsession with youth/younger membership recruitment isn't unique to CAMRA, and it's lack of success isn't either, so why don't they do something radical and target the mid to late 30's and older?

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  17. Please sort your Captcha out. Its just taken me 30 mins and over 100 screens to post a single comment!!

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    1. Sorry about that, but it's under the control of Blogger, not me. I can't do anything to make it easier. I have tried turning it off, but that inevitably leads within a few days to a torrent of spam.

      If you register an account with Blogger, even if you have no intention of creating your own blog, it should make matters easier.

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    2. You're probably trying too hard. Be quick, and if something isn't reasonably obvious don't click, otherwise you look like AI.

      Delete

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