Last Orders at the Bar! Stepping Down as Leeds CAMRA Chairman

Leading the Leeds CAMRA branch AGM on Monday 9th May will be my final activity as Branch Chairman. After three years as Chairman and four years as a committee member, I have decided to step down. Those close to me know this has been a difficult decision as I view this as a real privilege. I am proud to have held the position and also of what we’ve achieved in that time. My hope is that I have served the branch membership and committee well in my time.

I started volunteering for the committee to help drive change within the branch and I think I will leave one of the most progressive, forward thinking branches within the CAMRA community. Here’s some of the success we’ve achieved as a committee over the last few years:

– The cask vs. keg debate seems to be no longer an issue for us, we’ve moved on!
– Our awards have gone to some cracking modern bars alongside their traditional counterparts
– Branch meetings now take place on different days of the week, are more streamlined and average attendance is up
– Our beer festival has a new City Centre home as of 2018
– Supported campaigns to actively list Pubs as ACV’s across the Leeds Metropolitan area
– Hosted a Member’s Forum for the Revitalisation Project
– Supported pubs after the December 2015 floods
– Supporting the Leeds 2023 European Capital of Culture bid

Me alongside renowned Leeds beer writer, Simon Jenkins

For my personal development, I’ve been given the opportunity to present to large groups of people for pub awards, at the beer festival and also the Members Forum in Leeds. I’ve also represented CAMRA in newspaper interviews, TV and radio interviews, including one live interview in 2016 on BBC Radio Leeds. A great experience despite being nerve-wracking at the time! One of the things I wanted to take away from the experience was to build my own confidence when speaking to large groups and although I doubt I will ever be 100% comfortable with it, I am much more confident now than I was when I started doing this.

I’ve also had the opportunity to meet some great people, like Greg Mulholland, Leeds NW MP and the ‘Pub Champion’, Councillor Tom Murray who served as Lord Mayor of Leeds in 2013 (I will never forget sitting in the Lord Mayor’s office drinking a bottle of ale!), Councillor Judith Blake the current Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Lucinda Yeadon a regular attendee of the Pub of the Year presentation to the Kirkstall Bridge Inn and a central figure in the Kirkstall floods clean-up. Not forgetting the owners and brewers from Leeds breweries and beyond. Pub owners, managers and landlords, plus lots of people in media who have helped get our message across. So many people!

Presenting Jason (Foley’s Tap House) with an award

My favourite moment in my time was probably the pre-launch of the Turk’s Head next to Whitelocks, where Leeds ‘Royalty’ was out in force for the event – people like Harry Jepson OBE and Cllr Blake. This was the one event where it really hit home how respected the position of CAMRA branch chairman can be.

Just to share (and re-iterate!) my views on where CAMRA stands nationally. It faces a unique challenge over the coming years, almost akin to the EU Referendum in terms of how it will fundamentally change CAMRA and its future path. Those of you familiar with the findings of the Revitalisation Project will know that recommendations have been published. Although they aren’t the sweeping changes I personally hoped for, it’s still been enough to leave the membership divided. I see it on social media, the CAMRA Discourse forum and from personal experiences at the Members Forum we hosted on the subject. It’s going to be difficult to keep everyone happy and keep CAMRA relevant at the same time, but I think for the future relevance of the campaign, it’s critical we move away from pure support of real ale only. I believe that we risk losing the support of those people we are trying to campaign for, the consumers and the pub industry; becoming old fashioned and a niche consumer group with little appeal or power.

Presenting Ian (Kirkstall Bridge Inn) with an award

I have a few messages of appreciation before I sign-off. First of all, thank you to everyone who I have served alongside on the committee and who have attended socials and meetings. I’ve had some tremendous support from all of you and I look forward to remaining your friend. It’s been great to work with you on the subject that we are all passionate about and I’m confident as a branch, we have some great years ahead of us. Also, thank you to friends and family who have also offered their support throughout, from attending branch meetings, socials and the festival, to listening to my frustrations when things haven’t always gone the way I’d have liked! You all know who you are, thank you.

It’s been a great ride over the last few years and I hope when time better allows for me, the branch will support my return to a committee role. If you are considering attending a meeting or a social having never done so before, I hope the above encourages you to do so as participating can be such a rewarding experience. Despite stepping down, I will still be attending meetings and socials, so please look out for me.

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2 thoughts on “Last Orders at the Bar! Stepping Down as Leeds CAMRA Chairman”

  1. Hi Mike sorry to see you are stepping down and wish you well. Thank you very much for your work in moving the Branch forward

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