Campaigning for Real Ale drinkers in Bromley Borough.
Bromley CAMRA is founded
Bromley Branch of CAMRA foundered in 1992 in being unable to form a Committee. From then on the Bromley Branch was held in abeyance with the South East London (SEL) Branch looking after administration of its membership and pubs. Over time, membership numbers increased significantly, with the SEL Branch campaigning across four London Boroughs, covering over 600 pubs and a membership that grew to 2,400 members.
In May of 2011, the SEL Branch ran one of the most successful beer and cider festivals in its history. For the first time in 20 years the festival was held in Beckenham. The attendance numbers were much higher than anticipated and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive with tremendous praise for the organisers and demands to hold more and bigger festivals in the Bromley area in the future.
A nucleus of three Bromley members in SEL Branch (including Committee members Geraldine and Peter Rolfe) drew up proposals for the revival of a CAMRA branch for Bromley in July 2011, followed approved procedures and held a consultation meeting with Bromley members on 14th September 2011. The meeting was attended by 76 members, including 70 Bromley resident members and unanimously voted in favour of reinstating the Bromley Branch. Following that favourable outcome, the interim Chair of the burgeoning new Branch, Colin Brand, called an inaugural AGM and on 24th Oct 2011, 19 years after it last existed, the revived CAMRA Bromley Branch enjoyed a well-attended (73 members present) meeting to elect its new 15-member committee
The process to devolve from its caretaker home, SEL Branch, took about three and a half months to complete and was supported all the way by the SEL Branch and the CAMRA hierarchy. The Branch started with a membership of about 800 amongst just over 300,000 residents in the Borough. Only a few days later, on 27th Oct, some of the new committee met Bob Neill, the local MP and Pubs Minister in The Partridge in Bromley High Street. Apart from serving behind the bar as part of the “pull a pint” initiative to get MPs into local pubs, Bob took the opportunity to sign on as CAMRA’s latest recruit.
VIPs endorsements of the new Branch continued at a Branch Launch and Xmas Party occasion held at Beckenham Rugby Club (where the beer and cider festival had been held seven months previously) on 10th December 2011. The Rt. Hon. Bob Stewart, MP for Beckenham launched the Branch with words in support of real ale and toasted the newly re-formed Branch. Later, Cllr David McBride, Mayor of Bromley said a few encouraging words, raised a glass and wished everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Other notable guests included Geoff Strawbridge, London’s new interim Regional Director and Paul Spearman, Westerham’s Brewer and General Manager.
In May 2012 Colin Brand stood down as chairman due to health problems. His elected successor was Peter Rolfe. Happily Colin recovered and was able to rejoin the committee as our Pubs Preservation Officer.
The branch held its first beer festival in June 2012 at Beckenham Rugby Club and this proved to be a great success, despite the lack of co-operation from the weather. The beer of the festival, as voted by our visitors was Kohinoor brewed by the Windsor & Eton Brewery. A victory against the odds considering that this was one of only three beers that were late substitutions at the festival. Around 20 members visited Windsor, to present the brewery with their winner’s certificate.
On July 17, Colin Brand presented the branch’s inaugural “Pub of the Year” award to the Red Lion in North Road, Bromley. The presentation was made to long-serving husband-and-wife licensee team, Chris and Siobhan Humphrey. The Red Lion won the voting after being assessed first and foremost for the quality of its real ale, followed by other criteria such as being a good community hub, atmosphere and friendliness of the management and staff. The event included performances by the Ravensbourne Morris Men, and their guests the Blackheath Morris Men. The event was reported in the Bromley Times.
On Wednesday 12th December 2012, over 1000 CAMRA members across the country turned up to Parliament to lobby their MP’s in protest against the “beer tax” escalator . Bromley branch members contributed to one of the largest ‘lobby groups’ to descend on Her Majesty’s Palace of Westminster. In the subsequent budget, the beer tax escalator was repealed.
On March 9th 2013, the branch held a one-day only cider festival at the HG Wells Centre at Bromley South. This was the first event of its kind to be held in the London area for many years and was a huge success, with all the cider having been sold by mid-evening.
On April 27th 2013 we also celebrated our first “Club of the Year” award. This honour was presented to the Orpington Liberal Club on the evening of April 27th.
On Monday 1st July 2013, the Bromley Branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) celebrated reaching 1,000,members at a gathering in the Red Lion pub, Bromley North.
Branch Chair, Peter Rolfe, commented “It took 40 years for CAMRA to build up a membership of 800 in the Borough of Bromley but in just the past year and a half, that membership has risen to over 1,000. Nationally, CAMRA membership is growing rapidly and it’s hoped to reach 150,000 soon.
However, the Bromley Branch is one of the fastest growing of the 200 plus branches in the country. To mark the occasion, a cake was specially made in the shape of a wooden beer barrel. This was heartily consumed, along with some excellent ales. The Red Lion was a fitting venue as it was where Bromley CAMRA held its first social in January 2012, just after the branch became an independent Branch again. It was later awarded Bromley CAMRA’s “Pub of the Year 2012.