50 Years of CAMRA – update

As previously mentioned, to celebrate its 50th year, CAMRA commissioned food and drink writer Laura Hadland to produce a book that tells the story of the Campaign from its foundation as the Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale to the organisation it is today and what the future may hold for it. The book is now generally available.

The author has collected reminiscences from many active CAMRA members past and present (including some of the production team of this magazine) plus the views of key figures from the pub and brewery trade. Even if it is recognised as one of the world’s most successful consumer organisations, CAMRA has had its ups and downs over the years and these are all documented. This is very much a ‘warts and all’ study but still great fun for all that.

The book is available on-line from the CAMRA Shop https://shop1.camra.org.uk/.

Paperback: 224 pages; £16.00

CAMRA and its anniversaries

Although the pandemic muted many of our proposed activities, our 50th anniversary has still been celebrated, including the publication of 50 Years of CAMRA. As I read my copy, it occurred to me that this is not the first time CAMRA has celebrated an anniversary in print; indeed it might be said it is something we have been quite keen on. Perhaps in some ways this is a reaction to a general level of surprise that the Campaign has been going for so long. Earlier anniversary publications might have been produced along the lines of ‘we had better do it now, just in case’. But, far more importantly, any organisation should record its history while it can access those who were fundamental in making that history.

The first book came along in 1992 in celebration of our then 21st birthday. Called To The Bar was edited by Roger Protz and Tony Millns, the latter a past national chairman of CAMRA. The book was made up of some thirty individual essays and, as yours truly was national chairman at the time, it fell to me to write the final piece, Postscript – The Future, something I find it best not to re-read. What can be found are chapters from some who have sadly left us (John Young, George Bateman and Ian Hornsey) alongside other industry figures such as Anthony Fuller, plus many CAMRA activists.

What followed next did not come from CAMRA but from one of its members – John Brice. He produced an audio cassette (remember those?) entitled The Story So Far 1971- 1996. This is an invaluable listen as John interviewed a whole host of individuals, founders, politicians, campaigners, brewers and so on. Despite its value, it is, I suspect, as rare as the proverbial hen’s teeth. Hopefully a means can be found of converting it to a more useable digital format.

In our 40th year another book, this time edited just by Roger Protz, appeared called, well, CAMRA At 40. The format borrowed very much from the previous book, being in many ways an update since our 21st year. But it also attempted to be more forward looking in its content. A mark perhaps of greater confidence in CAMRA’s future?

At around the same time, CAMRA was approached by a company called Lagoon Media with a proposal to produce a DVD documenting CAMRA’s story. Perhaps the organisation had too much on its plate as it declined the offer but Lagoon went ahead anyway and The History of CAMRA DVD emerged. I have to declare an interest as I was the Technical Content Advisor and I have to say I think a very good job was done with the final release. Being able to both see and hear people is really valuable. Copies are still available from CAMRA Games and Collectables and will be on sale at the next GBBF.

And so we get to 50. Interesting fact for the Capital: only one London brewer that was around in 1971 is still with us, namely Fuller’s, even if in a different format and no longer family owned. Instead though we now have well over a hundred breweries. The road that CAMRA and the beer world travelled to get there is documented in Laura Hadland’s book.

Other book titles depicting the history of CAMRA

But for Completists (see Hadland page 164) you will need all four of the earlier documentations of our history to have a full set.

John Cryne