Tuesday 4 August 2009

CAMRA hits 100,000 not out

Members of CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, are today thrilled to announce a landmark moment in their 38 year history as their numbers swell to 100,000 members. The beer consumer group is delighted to confirm this milestone on the opening day of the Great British Beer Festival, at Earls Court, London.

Despite many campaigning successes over its 38 year history, CAMRA is pledging to push middle-age to one side as it steps up its campaigns to save Britain’s pubs and get a fair deal for beer drinkers. As the UK heads for a general election next spring, CAMRA is pushing for reform of the beer tie, fair taxes on beer, minimum pricing regulations to stamp out loss-leaders in supermarkets, zero duty rate on low strength beers, planning law reforms to protect pubs and for a central Government policy framework to protect and promote well-run community pubs.

Mike Benner, CAMRA Chief Executive, said:

‘We are overjoyed at reaching 100,000 members, brought together by our passion for great British beer and community pubs. But while we may relax and raise a glass or two to celebrate at the opening of the Great British Beer Festival today, we are not complacent and tomorrow the hard work campaigning for drinkers’ rights will continue.’

CAMRA was formed in 1971 by Michael Hardman, Jim Makin, Graham Lees and Bill Mellor, when an idea of a campaign arose whilst they were bemoaning the state of British beer and pubs during a holiday in Ireland. Popularity for the then-named Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale quickly grew, and membership levels rose sharply, with CAMRA boasting over 5,000 members by the end of 1973.

In the early years of the organisation, CAMRA quickly formed three key campaigning tools, which remain integral to this day. The year 1974 saw CAMRA publish the Good Beer Guide for the first time, selling 30,000 copies in the first 7 months of its release. In the same year, the Corn Exchange, Cambridge, played host to the first CAMRA beer festival, with half of the beer supply in the venue selling out in the first day. And lastly, CAMRA’s first national celebration of real ale in September 1975, the Covent Garden Beer Festival, which was a predecessor to today’s Great British Beer Festival.

On hearing the landmark figure of 100,000 members, co-founder Michael Hardman, said:

‘We would never have believed in 1971 that one day we would have 100,000 members. We would have hailed it as a roaring success if we had managed to attract 1,000 like-minded souls, but we didn't bank on the huge support that was lying in wait for just such a campaign to come along. The secret of CAMRA's success from its early days right up to now, is the contribution made by these members: an eclectic bunch of young and old, rich and poor, men and women, bosses and workers, fat and thin, northern and southern.

‘These are the remarkable and highly knowledgeable people who have made CAMRA Europe’s most successful single issue consumer organisation and fostered the emergence of thousands of new breweries around the world dedicated to providing an alternative to the bland offerings of multi-national companies for whom profit is all and quality an obstacle to its achievement.’

In recent years, CAMRA’s rising membership figures have been attributed to an increasing number of consumers trying real ale for the first time. In the last year alone, membership numbers have increased by 9.7%, and since the beginning of the twenty-first century, numbers have almost doubled!

In a poll to UK consumers, CAMRA asked the public what they thought the organisation’s biggest campaigning success has been over 38 years. Results showed that 41% believed it be the continued existence of real ale in the majority of pubs, with 11% thinking it to be the greater flexibility in pub opening hours.

Keith Spencer, CAMRA National Membership Director, spoke with great pride of the milestone. He said:

‘It’s a real honour to be one of 100,000 devoted real ale fans who devote so much of their free time to campaign for good beer and good pubs. Such a landmark deserves a grand celebration on a local and national level. CAMRA has had a rich campaigning history and we can look back fondly on some of the achievements that have lead up to this milestone. Let’s all raise a glass to the 100,000 and hope we can continue to increase our numbers in years to come.’

After a major national celebration at the Great British Beer Festival, starting on August 4th, the 100,000 member celebrations look set to continue with local CAMRA branches organising their own celebrations throughout the country.

- To celebrate the 100,000th member at the Great British Beer Festival, CAMRA will be giving away a free pint voucher to every 100th visitor who walks through the doors of the Festival during the 5-day spectacular from August 4th to 8th!

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