About Solihull CAMRA
Solihull and District CAMRA is one of over 200 branches of the Campaign for Real Ale promoting good, traditional beers and pubs across the UK. Our area stretches from Olton, Hobs Moat and Bickenhill in the north to Ullenhall, Henley in Arden and Claverdon in the south, and from Solihull Lodge, Earlswood and Tanworth in Arden on our western edge to Hampton in Arden, Barston, Chadwick End and Shrewley on the east. Apart from Solihull itself, our patch includes Shirley, Monkspath, Dickens Heath, Knowle, Dorridge and Lapworth (see Pub Guide for full lists of pubs) . If you live in this area and you're a member of CAMRA, then you're also automatically a member of our branch. Founded in 1982, we now have nearly 600 members. We organise a wide range of events including brewery visits, pub crawls, trips to other areas, and our annual Beer Festival in early Autumn.
On the first Monday of each month (except Bank Holidays) we hold a meeting at one of the good local pubs to discuss campaigning issues, our social calendar and to share what's happening on the local drinking scene. This is also the forum in which we decide which pubs will be listed for our area in the Good Beer Guide.
We also produce a quarterly newsletter, the Solihull Drinker Magazine , which is distributed to pubs throughout our area.
If you love cask beer or visit pubs in Solihull and think that it would be a pity to lose this unique part of our heritage why not join CAMRA, email our Membership Secretary David McKowen for details.
If you have any comments or suggestions regarding the Website please contact Keith Whitehouse.
The History of Solihull CAMRA
The story starts in 1971. During a holiday in Ireland, four friends from the North West of England were so disappointed in beer quality that they decided action was required. Three were journalists (Michael Hardman, Graham Lees, Bill Mellor) the fourth a brewery employee (Jim Makin). Their concerns were a result of the dominance at that time of six brewers in Britain (Bass, Allied Breweries, Courage, Scottish & Newcastle, Whitbread and Watney). Because these giants of the industry were responsible for over 80% of beer production and controlled more than half of the pubs in which beer was sold, they were able to replace cask ale in many pubs with the inferior but more profitable pressurised keg beer. As a result many beers were too fizzy, with no character and no taste, so the decision was taken in March 1971 to form a Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale. The first Annual General Meeting was held at the Rose Inn, Nuneaton, in 1972, and 20 people turned up. By the time of the second AGM in 1973 there were more than 1,000 members on the books, and the name of the organisation was changed to the more pronounceable Campaign for Real Ale. As a result, membership grew rapidly and soon branches were starting up around the country.
One of the earliest branches to be formed was in Coventry, in August 1974, which at that time struggled to cover an enormous area of the Midlands. At about this time local Solihull resident Clive Deacon joined the Campaign. He was soon to become a familiar face around the Midlands, spending time on the Committees of Tamworth and Stourbridge Branches. 1974 also saw the launch of the Good Beer Guide, CAMRA's flagship publication. Solihull area selections were put forward by the then over-stretched Coventry Branch, so perhaps understandably local entries for the initial editions tended to be in villages within easy reach of Coventry and Warwick, such as Shrewley, Hampton, Henley & Dorridge. Surprisingly, it was not until the late 1970's that Birmingham Branch was formed, though the Solihull area still remained under the jurisdiction of what was by then the Coventry & Mid Warwickshire Branch. By the early 1980's, increasing membership had led to the possibility of a Solihull Branch. Clive Deacon had been joined by Malcolm Glass and Andy Lyndon, and between them they set about trying to make this happen. An important supporter in those early days was Mike Fox. The initial Chairman of Birmingham Branch, he agreed to hold one of their Branch meetings in May 1982 at the Golden Lion (now the Beech House), Solihull in order to test local support, followed by a Committee Meeting a week later. Four Solihull members attended the first meeting, 6 attended the second. It wasn't an auspicious start. Indeed, Colin Smart, the Area Organiser for Midlands Branches at the time was heard to say "nice try, but it ain't gonna happen". He was of the opinion that Branch status for Solihull probably wasn't feasible at that time, and that a sub-Branch of Coventry was more likely.
Although initial support was a bit thin, the local activists of the time were not deterred. Local member Clive Deacon had now been joined by Malcolm Glass and Andy Lyndon, and their first action was to arrange a social evening for local Branches at the Three Tuns in Henley-in-Arden in June 1982. As only 7 local members attended, a key decision was made to be more proactive. They hoped to gain enough support to form an independent CAMRA Branch, rather than continuing as a sub-Branch of Coventry CAMRA. Armed with an address list of 57 local members, Clive, Malcolm and Andy decided to go door-to-door canvassing. They were met with a range of reactions, but the objective of gathering together a group of active members was successful. This was demonstrated by the next event, an informal social at the Saddlers Arms, Solihull in July 1982. This was attended by 16 local members, most of whom had been contacted via the door knocking campaign. Attendees included Brian & Dave Queenborough who were to prove valuable additions to the cause. Another notable feature of the evening was the simple newsheet produced by Clive Deacon for the event, called The Boro Banter (the fore-runner of The Solihull Drinker). Edition 2 of The Banter was produced for the next event, a social at the Red Lion, Knowle in August. This was attended by 18 people, including future Chairman Steve Dyson and wife Jean. Confidence was growing, so it was decided to hold a final test meeting at the Golden Lion, Solihull (now the Beech House). Area Organiser Andy Beaton was invited to judge if there was enough support to form a Branch. The answer was a resounding yes. 18 people attended, with enough volunteers for an initial Committee. So a historic moment had been reached, Solihull was proudly declared an official Branch of the Campaign, and the inaugural meeting was held at the Red Lion, Knowle on 12th October 1982. The first Committee was elected, consisting of: Malcolm Glass (Chairman); Clive Deacon (Secretary); Brian Queenborough (Treasurer); Eric Moseley (Membership); Andy Lyndon (Socials); Richard Adkins (Pub surveys); Alan Machin (Publicity). The first act of this fledgling Branch was to present local pub The Railway, Dorridge with a certificate for appearing in the first ten Good Beer Guides (although the Branch demonstrated their independence by not including it in the 11th the following year!). The end of 1982 also saw the opening of a local Real Ale Off-Licence, Bernies, in Shirley, which has been a major asset to local campaigning ever since.
This is an updated version of 2 articles by Steve Wood, published in the Solihull Drinker Autumn 2007
Since these early pioneering days, the Solihull Branch has gone from strength to strength under guidance of various Chair persons.
|Role of Honour - Solihull CAMRA Chair persons|
|12 Oct 1982||Inaugural Solihull CAMRA branch meeting|
|1987||Local Pub guide produced|
|1987||First Solihull & District Pub of the year award to Navigation, Lapwoth|
|1991||Branch membership reached 100|
|1994||First Solihull CAMRA beer festival (Bank House Knowle (above what is now the Vaults)|
|1997||Solihull Drinker Launched|
|2000||Branch membership reached 200|
|2002||First Solihull CAMRA Beer festival at British Legion|
|2003||Solihull CAMRA website launched|
|2006||Branch membership reached 300|
|2016||Solihull CAMRA website relaunched|
|2017||Branch membership reached 600|