After 45 years of being one of the largest single-issue consumer groups in the world, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) could be coming to an end.
The organisation is embarking on a consultation of as many as possible of its nearly 180,000 members to ask them who and what it should represent in the future – and it may no longer be focussed on real ale.
One of its four founders, Michael Hardman, has returned to lead the Revitalisation Project – a wholesale review into the purpose and strategy of CAMRA.
Members of the organisation will be invited to share their views about the future of CAMRA by completing surveys and attending around 50 consultation meetings across the UK this summer.
They’ll be asked whether CAMRA should move away from promoting and protecting traditional real ale and become more inclusive, or shed subsidiary issues which have become attached to the organisation over the years – such as pubs heritage, cider and foreign beer – in order to narrow its focus exclusively on cask-conditioned beer.
The Revitalisation Project is CAMRA’s response to the beer and pub industry which has changed hugely since the organisation was founded in 1971.
The rise of craft beer and a resurgence of interest in beer in recent years, plus renewed threats to pubs, has challenged CAMRA to review if it is best positioned to represent its members in the future.
Options include becoming a consumer organisation for all beer drinkers, all pub goers regardless of what they drink, or even all alcohol drinkers, regardless of where they drink it.
Revitalisation Project Chairman Michael Hardman said: “This could mark a fundamental turning point for the Campaign for Real Ale. So fundamental, it may no longer continue as the Campaign for Real Ale and instead become a campaign for pubs, or a campaign for all drinkers.
“It’s not up to us though. It’s up to our members to tell us what they want the Campaign to do in the future.
“CAMRA has sometimes been criticised for failing to move with the times, being old-fashioned and reactionary, and failing to embrace developments in the pub and beer industry such as craft beer. This is the chance for our members to tell us who we should represent in the future and what we should be campaigning for.
“Who do we represent now, and who should we represent in the future to help secure the best outcome for the brewing and pub industry? If we want to play a key part in driving the beer market back into growth and to help create a thriving pub sector, do we continue with our narrow focus, or should we become more inclusive?
“I’ve always been immensely proud to be a founding member of CAMRA. I’m just as proud to be able to return to head up the Revitalisation Project to ensure the organisation we launched in 1971 is relevant and effective for the next 45 years.
“When we founded the Campaign the most important thing was choice and combatting poor quality beer. Now our members need to tell us what is important to them. We need to hear from as many CAMRA members as possible to tell us what they think the organisation should look like in the future.”