Branch meeting & AGM – Saturday 19th January 2019

Written by Les Middlewood

Advance Notice
South Herts Branch Annual General Meeting (and Branch Meeting)
Saturday 19th January 2019 at 1.30pm

The branch will be holding its January Branch Meeting and then Annual General Meeting, on Saturday 19th January 2018 at the Royston Social Club, 12 College Road, St Albans from 1.30pm. All Branch members are welcome and will receive a free pint of real ale or cider on arrival. A buffet will be provided during the event.

Please ensure that you bring your CAMRA Membership card with you.

Our speaker will be Jared Ward-Brickett from Hertfordshire’s Tring brewery.

The Branch Meeting and AGM Agendas can be found below.

At the AGM the branch committee will be elected. Please note the following arrangements for this as agreed by CAMRA’s National Executive:

Nominations for membership of the Branch Committee shall be either by email or in writing to the Chair –, in each case signed by a proposer and seconder, both of whom shall be members of the Branch, and accompanied by evidence of the willingness of the nominee to stand. The closing date for nominations is fourteen calendar days before the date of the AGM. If a vote is required, a secret ballot will take place at the AGM.

The Branch Chairman’s Report can be found below.

Following the meetings there will be an opportunity to visit some of the real ale pubs in St Albans – a city centre map positioning the pubs will be available on the day.

We look forward to seeing you.

The Royston Social Club

The Royston Social Club is located close to Hatfield Road to the south-east of St Albans city centre, in a quiet residential area.

A location map can be found here.

Established in 1936 as the College Club it changed name in 1952 to the Royston Social Club. The club offers a range of real ales and will feature a number of Tring beers during the AGM. Please sign-in as you enter.


The Royston Social Club sits to the south of Hatfield Road (A 1057), a 20 minute walk from St Albans City Station. Buses stopping at Morrisons and connecting to the City Station include the 230, 300, 301, 601, 602, 653 and 724 services. The 724 service is particularly useful for members travelling from Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield, Hertford and Ware to the east.

Branch Chairman’s Report

2018 was a challenging but productive year for the Branch and a consolidating one for me as Branch Chairman – my second year as Chair. Once again, I thank everyone for their support. In February the new Branch Committee set out an interesting programme of events and this has been rewarded with solid and improved attendance. The new structure of Branch meetings – a period of branch business, followed by a speaker – continues to be well received. In 2018 our speakers have included Historians, Politicians, National Executive members, Brewers, Cider makers, Planners, Activists and – and we welcome Tring Brewery as our speakers at our AGM.

“Revitalisation” dominated the first half of CAMRA’s year – its ramifications seemed large yet, in the time since, nothing much has changed. The lack of any campaigning clarity and strategy emanating from the centre of our organisation has been disappointing, coming to a head for us in September when no promotional or campaigning material was available for our St Abans Beer & Cider Festival (SABCF). Hence, for the first time in many years, we had no Campaigning Stand, nor any national campaign with which we could engage with our customers. I arranged a meeting with Jackie Parker (CAMRA’s Chairman) and Tom Stainer (Head of Administration) to express South Herts’ concerns and frustrations. There is no doubt that the turmoil caused by the resignation of the CEO and standing down or non re-election of key National Executive members, plus significant staff changes at Head Office have contributed to a seeming lack of energy and impetus from the centre in 2018. They listened and have promised new purpose in 2019. We keenly await this but may take forward our own local initiatives and campaigning avenues – creating and funding our own local promotional material.

Our Branch website, managed by Tom Blakemore, has included information on our events plus historical and topical articles on brewing, beers and pubs – Tom’s endeavours were rewarded in 2018 with a top six award in CAMRA’s Website of the Year competition. We need to keep our website vibrant and current and I urge all Branch members to submit articles for inclusion.

Branch Membership has again risen and now stands at some 2300. Branch Membership Secretary, John Kemp, festival volunteers and Head Office staff signed up 267 new CAMRA members at SABCF in September – again exceeding all previous recruitment performances at the Festival. A New Members night was held at the Robin Hood in St Abans. There is no doubt that we need to work harder to attract younger people into our midst. Tom has been making good progress in this direction with a number of local and regional events. Committee Members Sandie and Martin Taylor set out to try some new things in 2108 – two family Saturday events, with games for children (and pints for parents) were tried. Whilst attendances could have been better, their hard work has laid a foundation for further suchlike events in 2019. We must try to engage with our membership at all levels.

There was some national success in the October Budget with a freezing of Beer Duty and some easing of the burden of Business Rates for many (but by no means all) pubs. But beer prices are still on the march. The £4 pint is now commonly seen so worryingly the first £5 pint of real ale in South Hertfordshire is not far off (or perhaps you have already encountered it!)

Fewer local pubs have closed this year but the general decline in pub numbers continues (nationally 18 are still closing per week). We must be ready and willing to tackle poor planning submissions and to expose poor practices such as pub sales direct to developers. South Hertfordshire has seen some welcome increases to off-set losses. The Reading Rooms (Farrbrew) in Wheathampstead and Mad Squirrel’s Tap and Bottle Shop in Harpenden have opened and new pubs in Hertford and Ware have also bucked the trend. We are disappointed that CAMRA’s national attempts to spur the Pub Codes Adjudicator into greater success – his team’s performance remains abject – have largely been ignored. We understand a further review is planned in early 2019 but what we need is action – I feel that CAMRA should be more incisive and direct and be willing to adopt a more combative approach.

We have written to all our local pub landlords in an attempt to engage with them – explaining what South Herts Branch do and how landlords can update pub information on WhatPub. Branch members have completed 100 pub surveys in 2018 to assist in keeping the database up to date and relevant. Steve Bury, Viv Davies and Paul Donatantonio with Dave Richards have helped significantly in achieving this number. But the load needs to be shared more evenly in 2019. So, “Volunteers please!”

Our Branch activities feature on our Website and, of course, in Pints of View which continues to be organised and steered by South Herts Branch on behalf of other Hertfordshire Branches. We must thank Steve Bury and John Kemp, and the wider production team of John Bishop and John Lightfoot, together with proof reader, John Green, for their hard work – Pints of View is a great mouthpiece for the Hertfordshire branches – and a fantastic read. Liaison meetings with the other Hertfordshire branches continue on a thrice yearly basis.

Our Pub of the Year judging teams found new winners for 2018. The Gold award was presented to the Old Cross Tavern in Hertford. The Mermaid, St Abans picked up a worthy silver and the Black Horse, Hertford a well-earned Bronze. The Crooked Billet, Colney Heath was Highly Commended and we presented a special award there – the pub has been in the last 25 editions of the God Beer Guide. The Robin Hood, St Abans was presented with the Branch’s Most Improved Pub Award. Our Cider Pub of the Year was again the Mermaid in St Abans and our Club of the Year award was scooped by the Hertford Club in Hertford – both are now multi-times winners of these awards. Whilst the quality of real ale in our best pubs remains consistently high, in some pubs the keeping of a good pint of real ale seems to be challenging. It takes time and effort to keep a great pint – we need to encourage our lesser outlets and that means frequenting them. I would like to see more branch pub trips in 2019.

As always, we continue to support our local “South Herts” brewers. McMullen’s have issued a wider range of seasonal beers under their Rivertown banner. 3 Brewers have brewed new beers and are confidently moving forward – winning the Best Strong Bitter category with their Special Pale Ale in the East Anglian round of CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain competition. Farrbrew have also brought in new beers, have opened their first pub and now hold regular brewery open days. The micro-brewers Foragers and White Hart Tap in St Abans continue to brew well-received beers. The Old Cross brewery in Hertford has been inactive for much of 2018 but now has a new brewer with new brews. Richards Cider from Essendon and their Wonky Donkey was elected Hertfordshire Cider of the Year and was also awarded the Runner-Up accolade in the East Anglian Cider of the Year competition.

Our St Abans Beer & Cider Festival was once again very popular and made a significant profit for the Campaign. The Festival always donates to local charities – the sum this year is likely to be in excess of £2,000. Our Festival keeps performing well with fresh innovations and ever surprising ways in how to get a quart out of a pint pot at the Alban Arena – we really do use every inch of the place. This year we introduced cooling for the beers, an innovation well-received by our customers. The Hertfordshire Beer of the Year Competition was again hosted by the Festival with 3 Brewers of St Abans’ Porter taking the title. The Festival Beer of the Year Award went to Oakham’s Green Devil. Congratulations to John Bishop, in his second year as Festival Organiser, and to his senior Organising Committee of John Tubridy, Dave Wright, Tom Blakemore and John Lightfoot, and of course, to all of you Branch Members and friends who made it all happen, giving up so many hours of your time. We hold one of England’s major provincial CAMRA events and the people of St Abans and its environs look forward to it every year and take pride in it. We hosted the Strong Bitters category in the East Anglian leg of the Champion Beer of Britain competition – the judging team including a heartening number of young members. A volunteer’s party was held at the Lower Red Lion.

Social Secretary, Ian Boyd, has organised a range of well-attended socials in 2017 – from beer festival trips to brewery visits. Breweries visited included 3 Brewers and Mighty Oak. We have more brewery trips already in the pipeline for 2019. The Hertford Autumn Ale Trail attracted over 65 members and the Ware Summer Saunter over thirty. The Hertford Mild Night drew over 35 members – who says mild should only be drunk in Winter!

The Branch is in good financial order due to the sterling work of John Lightfoot, our Treasurer. I thank John and our Auditors, Jamie Day and Andrew Stovell.

Finally, I would like to thank all of you who have volunteered for “CAMRA duty” during 2018. A special thank you to Sandie Taylor who has served the Committee well as our Activation Officer and Press Officer. Sandie has decided to stand down but we still hope to see her at many of our Branch events in 2019. During the year we co-opted Barry James on to the Committee – he is beginning to assess our pub surveying processes which lead to our WhatPub entries. If you feel tempted to play a bigger part in Branch activity please consider coming on to our friendly Committee – 2019 is sure to bring a range of new challenges!

Branch Meeting Agenda

  1. Welcome
  2. Apologies for Absence
  3. Minutes of the last branch meeting
  4. Review of the year’s key activities
    • Overview
    • St Albans Beer & Cider Festival 2018
  5. Branch activity and business issues
    • Pubs campaigning in 2019 – surveying
    • Good Beer Guide 2020
    • Pub/Cider Pub/Club of the Year 2019
    • WhatPub and pub surveys
  6. Beer break and lunch
  7. Speaker
  8. Questions and answers

AGM Agenda

  1. Minutes of AGM 2018
  2. Financial report
  3. Chairman’s report
  4. Amendments to Branch constitution
  5. Election of Branch committee
  6. Election of auditors

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