Remain or Leave?

Anyone who turned up to the recent Lincoln Beer Festival after 2pm on the Friday would have had to queue to get in. This is an annual occurrence, and I spent much of my time that afternoon walking up and down the queue explaining why.

We’re not allowed to have more than 500 customers in the Drill Hall at any one time. This limit is not “Health and Safety gone mad”, but a sensible measure to ensure the comfort and safety of everyone there.

While I was working the queue, I was regularly asked why we don’t go for a bigger venue. In previous years, I’ve heard, “What about the Engine Shed?” on a number of occasions. And, particularly this year, I was asked, “Why don’t you hold it in Lincoln Castle?”

Across the country, CAMRA Branches run more than 200 beer festivals. And each one has its own unique character. That character is inextricably linked to the venue in which the festival is held.

The smallest festival I’ve attended was in the upstairs room of a pub, while the biggest indoor venue was a cavernous exhibition centre. And then there are the outdoor events under canvas. There are festivals on racecourses, on river banks and in castle grounds. I’ve even been to one in a cemetery!

So how does Lincoln Drill Hall rate? I would describe the venue as civilised and cultured, which means that we attract a much more diverse clientele than you might expect at a beer festival. There’s an outside area which is great when the weather is good. And many visitors appreciate the fact that the musical entertainment is in the Café Bar and not in the main hall.

I’d be very interested to learn what Echo readers think about the Drill Hall and whether we should consider an alternative venue.

However, the decision on where to hold the festival will not be made on the basis of a public vote. It will depend on the resources we have, and by that, I mean volunteers.

Changing to a new venue is a significant undertaking in terms of planning and organisation. And if that venue is out of doors, it becomes hugely complex.

Marquees, toilets and much more have to be hired. Water and electricity have to be plumbed in. Floor matting may be required. Security fencing and guards have to be considered. This all adds up to a major undertaking for an organisation run entirely by volunteers. Having said that, other CAMRA Branches manage to do it, so why can’t we?

That question will be near the top of the agenda when we have our first beer festival planning meeting in October. But the very top of that agenda will be the question of whether we have enough volunteers to take on the major organisational roles and enable us to run the festival at all.