CIDER for everyone

I’ve just completed the CAMRA Inclusivity, Diversity and Equality Review (coincidence???), which you can find here. It struck me part-way through that it was the kind of stuff I tend to blather on about here – so I saved my comments as I went along, and here they are.

Are CAMRA meetings and events welcoming?

CAMRA meetings and local branch events are as welcoming – and as diverse – as the people who attend. Personally I’ve felt entirely at home at the branch events I’ve been to, and I think that’s mostly because the regulars at both my local branches are nice people. But it’s undeniable that, as a middle-aged White guy, I see a lot of people like me at those events – and what makes me feel that bit more at home will have the opposite effect on a lot of people. So CAMRA events do have some demographic issues, because CAMRA as a membership organisation has those issues (in terms of age as well as sex and ethnicity) – but addressing those is for the long haul; there’s certainly no way CAMRA nationally can micro-manage them now.

As for beer festivals, I have every confidence in CAMRA’s commitment to creating a safe and inclusive environment, and I trust the organisers on the ground to put the work in to make this happen. What we’ve seen over the last few years is that much greater diversity (compared to CAMRA’s early years) is already a reality on the festival floor. We sometimes forget, when we hear stories of CAMRA organisers having offensive pump clips or merchandise banned, that they’re responding to (or anticipating) complaints – and there wouldn’t be any complaints if the festival crowd was still made up of bearded beer-monsters.

Admittedly I’m male and I go back to the 70s – as a real ale drinker if not as a CAMRA member – so I’m really not the person to judge. That said, my impression is that festivals are a lot more inclusive and a lot safer – which is to say, a lot less male-dominated and a lot less likely to get a bit lairy towards the end of the day – than they were even when I started attending regularly.

How could CAMRA deal better with complaints of bullying, harassment and discrimination?

A confidential ‘hotline’ (or email address) and a dedicated team dealing with allegations would help. It would also help, in terms of acceptability to the membership, if the team didn’t go in two-footed but confined itself to offering ‘words of advice’ (in the police’s phrase), plus a bit of mandatory training; if there is anyone out there who CAMRA needs to be rid of, that would probably be quite enough to make them take the hump and leave.

How well is CAMRA appealing to a diverse audience?

CAMRA’s in an incredibly difficult position. How does an organisation whose membership is very largely White and/or male and/or middle-aged or older sell itself to all the people outside those demographics (or even to the large majority of society which is outside the intersection of all three) without either

(a) looking “pale, male and stale”, i.e. thoroughly unappealing
or
(b) making CAMRA look a lot more diverse than it (or at least its active membership) actually is?

Have you ever volunteered for CAMRA? You haven’t? What’s the matter with you?

Honest answer: never really fancied the more public-facing roles – let alone the more heavy-load-shifting roles – but a few years ago I did think I’d give it bartending a go and volunteered at a smaller local festival. We were mobbed – I worked a hand-pump for two hours solid, left thirstier than I’d arrived and had a sore arm for the next week. After that I never really wanted to try again.

What should CAMRA do now?

I don’t think CAMRA should make any sudden movements, for fear of repelling more people than it would attract (simply because it’s so much easier to cancel a sub than to take one out). What we’re seeing is a big demographic shift working its way through the organisation, and as far as I can see everyone in a responsible position is committed to letting it happen, if not helping it along (this is certainly true of local organisers where I am). Good – keep it up!

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