Sunday 23 June 2013

Not so Ale & Hearty

The most recent issue of Ale & Hearty
Ale & Hearty has for a long time been the magazine of the Southport & West Lancs Branch of CAMRA. I was its most recent editor. When I took over in 2010, there was a team: editor, sub-editor and advertising manager. First of all, our sub-editor resigned as he was busy with other CAMRA work and being over 70, wanted to wind down. Fair enough, even though I was still getting to grips with what was required. Then the advertising manager resigned, and as he was over 80, that too was fair enough, except that no replacement was forthcoming.

This meant that I was now responsible, not just for writing a great deal of the mag, asking others to write articles, assembling it and preparing the layout and format for the printers, but also for going around pubs canvassing for adverts, often designing them and collecting the money. Some help was forthcoming for the October 2012 issue, which was brilliant, but most of those helpers became unavailable for what should have been the Spring issue this year.

I eventually realised that, despite my repeated requests, I was not going to get committed permanent help such as I'd had when I became editor, and that each issue would be a daunting mountain to climb every single time. The only consistent help offered was from a Branch member who was in my opinion in danger of being over-committed herself. I had an extended period of ill health - nothing serious, but debilitating - for the couple of months on each side of the New Year, and the stress of worrying about the mag and the size of the job didn't make me feel any better. So I resigned as editor. I was reluctant as I knew that would probably be the end of the mag, but I really could do without the worry.

The real problem is that the people involved in voluntary social activities - not just CAMRA - are getting older, some are not unreasonably scaling back their activities or packing in altogether and there are fewer people prepared to take their places. A lot of the people who are still active in CAMRA now became involved when they were in their 20s and 30s, in some cases decades ago. In fairness, there's no shortage of people who are prepared to spend time criticising what others do, but nothing new there.

Two suggestions have been made: an on-line version, such as St Helens Branch do. That will not get to the public in the way that a paper magazine does in the pubs, but it may be better than nothing. Another is to hand the production over to company that gets the adverts while you provide the editorial content. The problem is that there would be more adverts and less space for articles compared to what we've done in-house. The advert charges would be higher, which may well deter some of our regular advertisers, so there is no guarantee that a viable magazine could be produced.

I'm not happy about resigning, but if the Branch is serious about wanting a magazine, then it needs to provide some help, not just as a one-off, but on a permanent basis - and it needs to stop expecting those who are already busy with CAMRA to plug every gap. If such help were to become available for Ale & Hearty, I would be prepared to edit it again, assuming the Branch would still want me, but I'm not really expecting to get the call.


  1. How sad, I love these beardy magazines. I hope you find a way to continue.

  2. Yeah, sounds like a difficult situation. Hope you find a way forward....

  3. What a shame. I always enjoyed your mag. A lot of branches have now out sourced the advertising for the reasons you mention. Not ideal but it does save a lot if time. I think that and some sort of online presence is likely to be your future


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