Breaking news! CAMRA member shares their opinion about Revitalisation! If at this point you are still reading, then I commend you. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, well, you’re in for a treat.
For those not in the know, Revitalisation is CAMRA’s very own Brexit – a consultation process as to how best the organisation can tackle the next 50 years that in hindsight has proven to be one of the most divisive actions that anyone could possibly have conceived.
The principle behind Revitalisation was logical and well-meaning. The campaign has existed for over 40 years, and it has been instrumental in contributing to many key issues surrounding real ale and the pubs industry – I don’t think that anyone is disputing that. The thing is, partly as a result of the campaign’s actions, and partly as a result of the fact that the world moves on, we’ve reached a point where we find ourselves asking a very valid question – what is the purpose of CAMRA in 2018, and what is the point of it continuing for the next 40 years?
The Revitalisation process
The Revitalisation process has been going on for some time – in fact, I forget exactly when it was started. Because if you are to look forwards, it is vital that you understand from where you have come, one of the original founder members of the organisation was unretired to chair the committee. And now, after months and months of consultations, meetings, and bickering on Facebook, we are less than a month away from voting on the proposals put forwards by the programme.
The question at the heart of Revitalisation was never asked as a way to radically change the principles of the organisation under a pretense of a democratic mandate, but there are those who would have you believe that it was. Michael Hardman wasn’t appointed to chair the committee to prevent people from thinking that Revitalisation was a coup-de-tat from a wave of evil craft keg drinkers who a secretly in the pockets of big brewers looking to crush cask ale, but there are those who are adamant that it is. The process was never meant to be a polarising political argument that forces members to choose whether you’re for or against Revitalisation, and yet here we are – drawing up battle lines and preparing to descend on Members Weekend in Coventry, marching behind the banners of NE candidates, many of whom have nailed their colours to one mast or the other.
I’m 400 words into this article, and I’m yet to tell you whether I am for the Revitalisation proposals or against them. Do I have an opinion? Yes, I do. Do I know how I am going to vote? Absolutely. Am I going to tell you? Not a chance.
The reason for my silence, and the lack of allegiance to any one side, is because choosing a side is quite possibly one of the worst things that you can do to the campaign as a whole. Revitalisation was never meant to be a poll of absolution, but if you spend five minutes looking at debates online, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was an all or nothing vote. And it isn’t – there are ten separate motions to vote for in April. Motions that have been formed from countless open-ended survey questions and discussions.
If you asked people what Revitalisation is about, a worryingly high number of them will probably say “It’s a vote on whether we should campaign for keg beer or not”. I know this because I’ve asked people to explain the process to me in their own words. Revitalisation is not about keg beer. It does feature within one or two of the motions, but that’s because keg beer (whether we like it or not) is part of the beer industry, and Revitalisation is about defining CAMRA’s place within that industry.
Ultimately, the outcome of Revitalisation isn’t going to shake the foundations of the campaign to the ground. And that’s because CAMRA’s foundations are formed by the branches. The branches will, as they always have done, focus on the elements of the campaign that are most pertinent to their area. The national elements of the campaign will never know the needs of Upper Lower Smithington branch because no one knows Upper Lower Smithington better than the people who live there. What Revitalisation will do however is give the campaign a function and a purpose. It will give that purpose to the members, the staff, and to the people against whom we lobby.
Most importantly though, the future of the campaign will not depend on the outcome of the vote. No matter the outcome, CAMRA will continue. Too many people have invested far too much for it to be allowed to collapse like that. Instead, the vote will determine what future the campaign will have. I fully expect people to resign as a result of the vote, no matter the outcome. But I ask you this – don’t quit. If the vote doesn’t go the way you want it to, don’t write off the campaign as a lost cause. Instead, use it as an incentive to get involved and make your voice heard at your branch, your festival, wherever it is you are.
We are one of the largest consumer lobbying groups in Europe – our members are going to have different opinions. Whether intentionally or not, we are champions of diversity. Diversity in the drinks we drink, in the places we drink them, by the people who drink them. That is a beautiful thing to be part of. It was here before Revitalisation, and it’ll be here long after it’s forgotten. I don’t know about you, but that’s something that I’m all for voting for, again and again.