How Gwent CAMRA Branch Works
CAMRA, like most organisations, is structured with a national and regional set-up. At the top end is the National Executive (NE) comprised of unpaid directors supported by full and part-time staff at its St Albans HQ. Beneath the NE are the regional directors and area organisers who support the branches.
At branch level there is a committee which operates within the framework of a branch constitution. CAMRA has a model constitution upon which the Gwent CAMRA branch constitution is based although it is often tailored to meet individual branch needs. A copy of the Gwent CAMRA branch constitution is at the end of this piece.
As is the norm for many organisations, Gwent CAMRA has an Annual General Meeting (AGM) at which the committee is elected and the accounts approved. The committee serves for a year until the next AGM. Contact details of the Gwent CAMRA committee may be found on our website > gwentcamra.org.uk
During the year, in fact in most months, the branch holds open branch meetings (open meaning any member can attend as opposed to closed committee meetings) at which current issues are discussed and we catch up with local brewery, pub, and beer festival news. Most meetings are quite informal and fairly short (less than an hour) but, out of necessity, e.g. Good Beer Guide selection, they can run a bit longer to allow a full debate.
Meetings take place during the earlier part of the week when the meeting venue tends to be quieter (preferably with a separate room available), and are held in various locations in the branch area. If a Gwent member is new to a branch meeting, the Treasurer may buy them a pint as a welcome to the branch!
Gwent CAMRA is responsible for selecting pubs for the Gwent section of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide. A shortlist of candidates is drawn up based on those pubs in the current Guide, those that just missed out for selection last time around, plus newcomers that have impressed during the year. The shortlist is influenced by nominations from members, sometimes pubs nominate themselves (it does happen), and the results of CAMRA’s National Beer Scoring System (NBSS). The latter is very useful in gauging how consistent a pub has been with beer quality. A number of Gwent members input scores on a regular basis. Then the debate begins! This makes our early meetings in the year quite interesting as opinions and counter views are expressed. After two meetings and much argument and head scratching we arrive at our final list. It’s a bit like a team coach or manager with a squad of players from which a final team is selected. The printed Guide will eventually emerge in September.
We also run pub of the year competitions when pubs are nominated and the top candidates judged to see which wins our Town and Country awards (see separate article).
One event we all look forward to is the annual Tredegar House International Folk Festival held at the rear of Tredegar House in Newport. Gwent CAMRA runs a popular real ale & cider bar to help slake the thirsty of performers and those who get thirsty just watching! We focus mainly on local brewers and cider makers to help promote them and inform customers where they may be found. This event usually takes place over the second weekend of May.
Slightly J larger than the Tredegar House event is the Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival (GWBCF) which is held in Cardiff. Gwent CAMRA helps to promote this showcase of Welsh beers and ciders, and quite a few branch members volunteer to work in various capacities at the festival. See gwbcf.org.uk for more information.
WhatPub is a CAMRA system that informs those with internet access of pubs throughout the UK. Gwent CAMRA updates the section covering our area quite frequently as we discover new facts about our real ale (and other) outlets. It’s a useful link to keep on your mobile phones or tablets and PCs. Anyone can provide feedback to the local branch should you observe something that you consider worthwhile reporting.