However, much as I'd like to think this blog is highly influential, I feel that Liverpool's move to on-line ticketing has less to do with anything I wrote and more to do with the festivals being run by Liverpool Organic Brewery and others in the city, all of whom effortlessly put their tickets on line. For some reason, CAMRA are still having their sales day, although this time it will involve queueing in the Augustus John pub near the cathedral rather than in the freezing cold outside the crypt, but on-line sales do mean that if you live further afield you have a chance of getting a ticket.
Which brings me to the question of price. Liverpool CAMRA will charge £7 a session. This is comparable to the Liverpool Organic Brewery's charging of £7 a session for their festival in the Old Christ Church in Waterloo and £8 for their festival in St George's Hall and their festival in the Black-E next month. I appreciate that these venues don't come cheap, and the success of these festivals suggests that there are enough people around able and willing to pay such prices.
Perhaps we should remind ourselves why we have beer festivals. In their current form, they were invented by CAMRA in the 1970s as a way of campaigning, the idea was to show people that the range and - sometimes - quality of real ale could be much better than what they were used to locally. CAMRA's job has changed but is still necessary, as every year a new generation of drinkers upon reaching 18 is subjected to expensive advertising campaigns for the latest fad drink: it was alcopops for a while, but now it seems to be fruit or pear ciders. Some say CAMRA's work is done because real ale has been saved, but no situation is static: vast drinks corporations will always try to steer young drinkers towards high profit, mass-produced and easily handled products. They do this because real ale has a lower profit margin and is less easy to look after.
I am unsure how festivals charging £7 or £8 fit in to the campaigning ethic. Liverpool Organic Brewery can rightly point out that they are a business, not a campaign, but CAMRA can't say the same. Look at these other CAMRA festival prices as a contrast:
- Manchester (300+ real ales) next January: entry £2 to £5; CAMRA members free on 2 out the 4 days.
- Wigan (70+ real ales) last March: entry £1 to £3; CAMRA members free at all times.
- Southport (50+ real ales) last month: entry £3; CAMRA members free at all times.
But I don't want to be too churlish: Liverpool CAMRA has after 2 or 3 years of "looking into" on-line tickets finally taken the plunge. It wasn't so bad after all, was it?
Having said all that, it is a well-run festival in a great venue, and it's not my intention to discourage anyone from going. I am simply reflecting upon what I see as a shift away from campaigning.