There's been a bit more talk recently about the CAMRA Revitalisation Project and the Special Resolutions that have been proposed for this year's AGM off the back of it. Phil at Oh Good Ale gives a really good summary of the changes that the Special Resolutions would make to the Articles of Association, although, as will become apparent, I don't entirely agree with his interpretation of them. Tandleman has also had a crack at the subject, and makes some good points.
For me, the proposed changes reflect two underlying needs.
The first is the need for a call to arms with some sense of urgency. While real ale arguably isn't out of the woods yet, it doesn't feel like it's under immediate threat in the way that it was when CAMRA were founded, and it's that sense of immediate danger that activates volunteers. On the other hand, you don't have to look very far these days to find people - not necessarily stereotypical CAMRA types - protesting against the closure of an apparently cherished local pub, and whatever you think of the merits of these campaigns, they undeniably generate strong feelings. By putting a bit more focus on the general defense of pubs and of drinking, the RP is presumably hoping to rekindle some of the old crusading spirit and get more members active.
The second is the need to remain a respected and authoritative voice in the wider world of beer. This has become an awkward double bind for CAMRA - on the one hand, talking up real ale won't achieve much if drinkers don't respect them as a credible source of information while on the other hand, with more beer drinkers at least dipping their toes into the accessible end of craft keg, talking up cask while ignoring or disparaging all other forms of beer will make them look increasingly blinkered and untrustworthy. Despite my previous rants about wording, the RP proposals seem like a reasonable stab at finding a way out of that, by letting them present real ale as a special and important high point in a broader landscape of Quality Beer.
How well all this will actually work - and whether the proposals will even get past the membership at the AGM - remains to be seen. But I'll be voting for them.