Thursday 19 May 2016

Liverpool Snowball melts

You'll never sup alone
The situation in the divided CAMRA Liverpool and Districts Branch has developed further. To set the context: in September 2012, MerseyAle reported that,

The Liverpool CAMRA Snowball Campaign to Bring New People to Real Ale has "ticked all the boxes" to win the first national CAMRA Membership Initiative Award. So said the Chair of the national CAMRA Membership Committee, Julie Squires, when she presented the award at a Bringing New People to Real Ale event at the Dispensary in Liverpool ... She praised Liverpool CAMRA for its path finding success in developing innovative and successful methods of Bringing New People to Real Ale, particularly with women and young people. The Snowball method of "bring a friend" had been very effective in spreading the real ale message and building a strong network of new contacts based on shared friendships.

The current committee wants to kill off this campaign four years after the branch earned the award because Snowball events are just an "exclusive drinking club". Well, knock me down with a feather: who'd have guessed that a CAMRA event might involve drinking?

Campaigning for real ale isn't just about earnest articles on the cask breather, methods of dispense, beer quality, and so on, important though such issues might be. It's about saying drinking real ale is enjoyable, so why not give it a go? To that end, it would include:
  • A branch magazine that is entertaining - no one will read it otherwise.
  • Putting on and working at beer festivals.
  • Pub and beer awards - local and national.
  • Publicising real ale pubs to the public, including in the Good Beer Guide, local guides and in my branch's case, weekly articles about beer and pubs in the local paper.
  • Educating the public to view real ale as normal and not the province of bearded weirdos with sandals.
  • It's even includes just going to the pub, drinking real ale and inviting others do the same, drinking being the best way of saving it.
It doesn't matter if some people choose to interpret such activities as a beer club; as long as the message is "You too can join", it's still a form of campaigning for real ale.

The consequence of this internal conflict is the loss of an award-winning membership initiative as well as an award-winning magazine (reported here). The new Liverpool committee called a meeting with a week's notice to discuss the future of the branch magazine scheduled at 1.00 pm on a Sunday. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd conclude that the short notice and timing had been chosen to prevent maximum membership participation.

The action over Snowball has, like the proposed changes to the magazine, led to resignations, but I'm wondering whether these are seen as a price worth paying to get rid of an old guard with opinions clearly at odds with the current leadership. Surely this isn't the only way of dealing with dissent?


  1. I like these episodes of Game of Beards. Keep it up. Especially the perspective that you've picked your side.

    1. Sorry, I don't get the second sentence.

    2. that you are #TeamOldGuard and not #TeamNewGuard

      that you are not an unbiased observer.

    3. I am not a member of the branch in question and I hold no position CAMRA at all. In a sense, one can argue that no one can be a truly unbiased observer - and that includes you.

    4. you have only reported the rumour and moans of one side and not sought the views of the other.

      I have no side, you clearly do.

    5. I have done my own assessment of the issues, and I certainly would not simply report one set of moans. Actually, CL, if you'd read everything I've written, you'd know that I have seen the e-mail correspondence (which you have not) from the branch chair - not only that, I have briefly quoted from it elsewhere on this blog. Her hostility to the mag and Snowball was made crystal clear from the outset. I disagreed with her assessment, rather than, as you suggest, sided with one side over another. I have no reason to do that: I'm not an officer of CAMRA, I'm not a member of Liverpool branch, and I have never had involvement in writing the mag or in Snowball.

      It's unlike you to get something so badly wrong.

  2. No change on the habits of a lifetime in this blog -- no attempt to get the facts. Snowballs actually ticked some big boxes marked discrimination. Those who were invited enjoyed the free beer and said it was wonderful -- those who were not allowed to attend had other views on the matter.

    1. "No change on the habits of a lifetime in this blog". So you have read all 1258 posts on this blog, have you? No, you haven't: you are just making pompous statements about it, and that doesn't constitute telling the truth. In fact, I have spent quite a lot of time finding out the facts - so that's one inaccuracy by you for starters.

      All I get from people who defend what's going on in Liverpool Branch is indignant rebuttals and casual insinuations about my integrity. I don't belong to Liverpool Branch and have no personal involvement in the issues. I am reporting what I have been told by several people who are involved.

      However, I note how your snide comment about my blog is bravely made from behind a cloak of anonymity, as are the others. I conclude that you don't have the courage of your convictions.

  3. What I can't understand Nev is why you keep washing Liverpool CAMRA's dirty linen in public (entertaining though it is). It's not as though it's your own branch and I can't help feeling you have some sort of agenda here.

    1. One might say that a branch chairman would say that, wouldn't he:) But surely the answer to your question is self-evident. It's exactly because Nev is outside of the branch that he can speculate and question what is going on without being accused of playing internal politics.

    2. Yes but I really don't think it is for Nev to speculate and question in this way. If I was on the Committee of Liverpool CAMRA I'd be well pissed off with this.

      It's also worth remembering that we are only getting one side of this argument so he's not exactly playing honest broker here.

    3. "he's not exactly playing honest broker here."

      I find that insulting: the onus is on you to explain that unsubstantiated comment.

      What I have written follows discussion with several people who are involved, plus I have seen some of the e-mail correspondence from the chair of the committee. As for it not being my place - why not? Only someone with something to hide would want me to shut up.

    4. Very defensive aren't you? I meant just that. As Cookie has pointed out you don't give the impression of being an unbiased observer and while there will inevitably be two sides to all of this you have only presented one of them.

      It's up for you to decide whether it's your place but for this outside observer you appear to be stirring the pot unnecessarily.

    5. It's in human nature to be defensive when attacked, and your comments have included that I'm not an honest broker, I'm washing dirty linen in public, I'm stirring the pot, and that I have an agenda. None of these is accurate. Branch activities are not secret, and any CAMRA member can attend any meeting of any branch. It follows therefore that any CAMRA member can write about the activities of any branch. I am completely in my rights, and I have no agenda. If you think I have, what is it? Because I've no idea. I'm reporting facts after speaking to a number of people who are directly involved, and I have seen some of the e-mails from the chair, including the one stating that the mag is not fit for purpose (exact words).

      When I began writing this blog in 2009, I said that, "I'll write about anything from the worlds of music and beer that catches my eye". Writing about an issue affecting the biggest CAMRA branch in the area is clearly within my blog's remit.

    6. RedNev is good friends with the person who started the snowball event, so its perfectly clear what his agenda is.

    7. Yet more insinuation from the brave, anonymous Hob. And, yet again, not a single real argument against what I've written. Even though my supposed agenda is so clear, I note you can't spell out what it is.

      You clearly don't know me at all. Let's be radical and quote some facts: Snowball won a national CAMRA award for being an innovative way of bringing new people to real ale. I understand you don't approve of it, but - like it or not - national CAMRA did, and we are talking about a CAMRA initiative here, remember. Your disagreement isn't just with me here, or with the organisers of Snowball; it is with the national body too.

      I have never taken part in a Snowball activity, nor in the organising of one. I don't belong to Liverpool Branch, and I hold no positions in CAMRA at all. It is clear, therefore, that I have no vested interest whatsoever in whether Snowball continues or not. If it ended, it wouldn't make the slightest difference to me. So there's no hidden agenda. I'm reporting about what's happening, and no one who defends what's going on, yourself included, has cited a single fact that contradicts anything I've written. You all just resort to hints and innuendo.

    8. I note though that you didn't deny you are good friends with the person who started the Snowball event. And while it may have won an award I see that was in 2012 - things can change in four years.

    9. What's your agenda, John? Trying to suggest conspiracies where none exists. No I didn't deny a fact. Why would I? Just another unsubstantiated insinuation. But then you and all the others who have come here to criticise what I've written have produced no argument to say I was wrong. All you lot have done is cast aspersions on my integrity without a shred of evidence in support. If the best you can come up is that I'm friendly with the organiser of Snowball - but without a shred of proof that that friendship has had any effect on what I've written - then you really are clutching at straws.

      Okay, this is my agenda:

      MerseyAle as it stands is one of the best CAMRA magazines I have come across, and I do get see quite a few different ones.

      Snowball is a successful, if very small-scale, campaign getting new people to try real ale, often women and young people. I happen to think that is a worthwhile thing to do.

      The current chair has dismissed the mag as (in her words) not for for purpose, and Snowball as a drinking club (also her words). I think she's wrong on both counts.

      There: you have it - my agenda.

      If I agreed with the chair, I would not be defending either, regardless of whether or not the people involved were friends. If you think that unlikely: firstly you don't know me; and secondly, don't judge me by I can only assume are your own standards.

    10. I have no agenda Nev but I do like to see fair play.

    11. So do I.

      Disagree with me as much as you like - that is fine.

      Just don't suggest I have a hidden agenda, when I do not.

      Anyway, the whole issue has now moved on, as the meeting took place on Sunday. Apparently it was well-attended; I'll be interested to see what happens next.

  4. Can't have people drinking beer and enjoying themselves at CAMRA events, can we?

  5. Snowball events are invite only free piss ups?

    2 questions.

    Why don't all branches do it?

    Can I come?

    I love free grog me.


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