Archive for February, 2013

February 12, 2013

Declaration of Independence?

Lying here on my deathbed* I’ve been thinking about what independence means. At least, given the current focus on arranging the Birmingham Beer Bash, what it means in the context of a beer festival. It’s something that has been on my mind for a whiles we do the deals necessary to bring this event together. It’s only when you start to put together the costs for an event like this that you begin to appreciate just how much money is involved. Obviously the idea is not to make a loss, but with most of the income coming from tickets and beer sales, much of which doesn’t come in until the day itself or a short time before, it is an interesting challenge to cover the up front bills that need to be paid.

Most of the groups that put on festivals have the backing of a larger organisation which can underwrite the costs and take much of the risk of losses out of the equation. Such organisations (and yes, we’re primarily talking CAMRA here) also have plenty of resources to call on in terms of equipment such as cask racking etc. Even so, they still generally need sponsorship in order to make sure they are profitable. For smaller groups some breweries have modest resources that can be called on too, but start planning a large independent festival with no initial financial backing and suddenly it is a daunting challenge. The costs involved go into the tens of thousands and a good portion of this is upfront cost.

So, how are we going to deal with this problem? Well, naturally we’ve been seeking to establish some sponsorship deals and it isn’t long now until we’ll be able to announce our main backer, who will be providing a good portion of the infrastructure we need to set up two keg bars and a cask bar with hand pulls, as well as providing the glassware and giving us other valuable support. And there’ll be other sponsors too helping with the costs of different aspects of the event. To be honest, without this the whole thing simply couldn’t go ahead, as we’d have to raise admission prices to the point at which it would start having an adverse effect on attendance, and that still wouldn’t properly address the issue of paying out all those upfront costs.

I started off talking about independence and what that means in this context. When we announce to the world the sponsors that will be supporting us inevitably that will raise questions about what the influence of those supporters is. We are, to some extent, beholden to them because we can’t operate without the support they provide. But just because we have a major supporter backing us, doesn’t mean we don’t retain our independence. The event is still run in accordance with our own principles, and we’ll be making sure that we have a range of beers there that align with those. Some beers will come from those organisations sponsoring us, or from other breweries that they can help bring into the event, but they’ll represent the kind of things we (and hopefully you) want to see at our event.

What does that independence mean to us then? It is the freedom to choose to serve beers irrespective of dispense method, from breweries that convince us they are offering something in line with our aims. It is the opportunity to create an event that is exactly what we want it to be, made possible by the support of organisations that want to be a part of our vision, not them making us a part of theirs. It is Birmingham Beer Bash.

* I’m a man, I have a winter bug, therefore it is correct to assume that I am dying from a rare and untreatable strain of the flu virus.