Central Lancs

Campaign for Real Ale

The End of CAMRA West Lancashire branch

Below is an article written at the time of the branch name change in 2011. This first appeared in Ale Cry 94, the Winter 2011 issue of Ale Cry.

Well it looks like CAMRA West Lancashire branch is finally coming to an end after being in existence for some 38 years.

At a Special Meeting held on October 24th 2011 at the Stanley Arms in Preston it was overwhelmingly decided by those present that the branch should no longer be called CAMRA West Lancashire and that it should henceforth become known as CAMRA Central Lancashire branch. The wheels are currently in motion to get the name change fully authorised and registered, but with the demise of CAMRA West Lancashire imminent what can we say about the branch since it came into existence in 1973?

Ready or not, counting the old branch out, here are some telling figures:-

1 - There has been just one CAMRA BEER FESTIVAL.

The branch's one and only Beer Festival was held at the Victoria Hotel (now the Old Vic) in Preston in May 1978. Since then there have been joint ventures with many other organisations, but I think it fair to say that CAMRA West Lancashire branch had just about given up on holding a second Beer Festival. Perhaps CAMRA Central Lancashire branch will have better luck.

3 - There have been three BRANCH WEBSITES.

The branch has struggled with its presence on the internet. The first CAMRA West Lancashire branch website was set up in 1999, the second in 2001, and then there was a third website created as recently as 2010. As well as the three websites the branch currently also has both Facebook and MySpace webpages. In practice all are now redundant, but in the very near future a brand new CAMRA Central Lancashire website will be making its appearance.

8 - There have been eight REAL ALE GUIDES.

The branch's first local beer guide was the Preston & District Real Ale Guide which was produced in 1975. Priced at 20p, it was a slim volume that listed all the branch's known real ale pubs but gave no descriptions of them. The most recent local beer guide came out in 2004 and was priced at £4, and looking to the future it was actually entitled the Central Lancashire Real Ale Guide. The well received Preston Guild Guide was produced in 1992 - all being well there will be a second Preston Guild Guide produced in 2012 by the fledgling CAMRA Central Lancashire branch.

30 - There have been 30 GEORGE LEE MEMORIAL TROPHY awards.

The first George Lee Memorial Trophy winner was the Olde Blue Bell in Preston, with the pub holding the trophy for the year 1981/82. Named in memory of the popular former Moorbrook landlord who had helped in forming the branch in 1973, the George Lee Memorial Trophy is the branch's premier award given to the pub, organisation, or person that is considered to have done the most for real ale locally in the previous year. As things stand the Bitter Suite, the Continental, the Old Black Bull, and St Teresa's Parish Centre have all been two-time winners, with the 2011/12 winner to be voted on at the Christmas Branch Meeting at the Angel, Preston.

58 - There have been 58 PUB OF THE SEASON awards.

The first Pub of the Season winner was the Hogshead (now the Guild) in Preston for Autumn 1996. With no pub yet having won the award twice there have been 58 different Pub of the Season recipients, with several of these pubs sadly having bitten the dust in the intervening years. With the branch in the process of changing its name, the Winter 2011/12 Pub of the Season, the Wheatsheaf at Ashton, will have the distinction of being both the last CAMRA West Lancashire winner and the first CAMRA Central Lancashire winner.

94 - There have been 94 issues of ALE CRY.

The first Ale Cry was produced in April 1978. It was initially a single sheet issue costing a princely 2p, but this charge was dropped after that first edition. Over the years Ale Cry has gradually improved in quality and grown in size, with the Autumn 2011 edition reaching a mammoth 36 pages and being full colour throughout. On a personal note, this is the 45th 'CAMRA West Lancs And' article I have written for Ale Cry. What comes next - do I now write 'CAMRA Central Lancs And' articles?

132 - There have been at least 132 BREWERY TRIPS.

The branch's first brewery trip was to Jennings Brewery at Cockermouth on September 13th 1973, and in 1974 alone there were as many as eight brewery visits arranged. The most recent brewery trip was to Hart Of Preston Brewery on July 14th, with 16 branch members being excellently entertained on one of the few really hot days of Summer 2011. Brewery trips may not be as regular as they used to be, but the Social Secretary has no doubt a number of possibilities in mind for 2012.

460 - There have been approximately 460 BRANCH MEETINGS. The first branch meeting was held at the Moorbrook in Preston on June 25th 1973. Since then branch meetings have been held once per month at a great number of different venues initially in the Preston area, but more recently throughout the entire branch area. The 38th CAMRA West Lancashire branch AGM took place at the Stanley Arms in Preston on June 13th 2011, when a motion was carried that CAMRA Central Lancashire would be the branch name preferred by the majority of those branch members present.

1000 - The number of times that I said ....

This is probably the number of times that I have said that we should stay as CAMRA West Lancashire branch (As you will gather I was one of the few branch members who were in opposition to the name change). Calling this article 'The End' reminded me of that rather depressing Doors song from the 1960s, and strangely it is a song that also includes the line 'The West is the Best'.

Well that's about it for CAMRA West Lancashire branch. I suppose that a branch name change is not the end of the world. Long live CAMRA Central Lancashire branch.

Gordon Small