Local Real Ale & Cider Festivals
Check out the Branch Diary for dates of Somerset Beer and Cider Festivals.
Exeter Festival of Winter Ales
Friday 19th and Saturday 20th January 2018 at Exeter City Football Club, from 11am to 11pm.
Click this link to download details: Exeter Festival of Winter Ales 2018. Contact Ray Dwan on moc.tenretnitb@noilnoved if you are interested in being staff for this event.
Sheppys 3rd annual Cider and Music Festival will be held on Saturday 1st September 2018. Watch this space for more information. http://www.sheppyscider.com.
RIP MINEHEAD WEST SOMERSET RAILWAY STATION REAL ALE & CIDER FESTIVAL (Last one held in 2015)
It is with great sadness that the branch has to announce the loss of the annual Minehead Real Ale & Cider Festival at the West Somerset Railway. Sadly the Railway has decided not to allow the branch to continue with the festival, you may have read the initial press release given by the Railway on the Somerset Gazette website, we feel this did not represent the facts as we see them and the branch sent the response which is printed below:-
Somerset CAMRA response:-
Somerset CAMRA are somewhat taken aback at the suggestion safety issues were the reason West Somerset Railway have cancelled our Real Ale & Cider Festival, traditionally held on the platform at Minehead Railway Station on the second weekend in September. The event has run for 16 years without incident because it is well managed. Concern over numbers attending is a red herring as in recent years attendance has not increased. If numbers attending really were an issue we could have restricted numbers by selling an agreed volume of advance tickets. Entry only by advance ticket works well enough at other festivals. This wasn’t suggested because the issue wasn’t raised.
In reality the only issue WSR did raise with us was concern over falling revenue. We agreed that approximately half of our estimated 3000 festival goers purchase train tickets. The other 1500 therefore contribute nothing directly to the Railway. Our proposed solution was for WSR to operate ticket barriers during the event and charge those not travelling a £5 entry fee. We are confident this would have generated between six and seven thousand pounds additional revenue for the Railway. As we explained, there are very few CAMRA festivals that are free to enter; attendees normally expect to pay an entrance fee and £5 is not unreasonable. Unfortunately WSR declined this suggestion despite the fact it operates barriers during ‘Day Out with Thomas’ events.
WSR’s suggestion that we hold the festival in a marquee adjacent to WSR property is utterly impractical logistically and we clearly explained why. Our Unique Selling Point is that the festival is on the station platform; a marquee event would most certainly not have the same attraction. The land footprint potentially available is only a small fraction of the space we currently occupy in any case. An event effectively held on the street has absolutely no security for the 150 casks of beer and cider, equipment and paraphernalia associated with the event. Then there are the licensing issues. I could go on.
When it became clear WSR were minded to withdraw the option of holding our event on Minehead Station platform we asked them to consider one final festival in 2016, for the following valid reasons:
- WSR plc had already agreed with Somerset CAMRA to stage a festival on these dates
- 10th September 2016 is an advertised peak timetable day in anticipation of the event
- the event dates had already been advertised to our customers/their passengers
- upwards of 100 regular attendees have already booked their Minehead hotel rooms as a result of that advertising
- it would be a fitting conclusion to 16 years of goodwill between Somerset CAMRA and WSR plc
Unfortunately this request was turned down so we can only apologise to the many folk who may lose their accommodation deposits. Minehead hotels and B&B’s were always sold out weeks before our festival. We expect local businesses will be rather displeased by the decision. WSR plc have recently released a three year business plan. It is full of fine words about their relationship with stakeholders and the need to increase revenue. As always, actions speak louder than words. As a West Somerset Railway shareholder and the original proposer of this event I am very disappointed. The event was conceived as a partnership between the Campaign for Real Ale and West Somerset Railway plc as a ‘shoulders of the season’ attraction. The festival was successful from outset and Somerset CAMRA had wished to continue with it indefinitely. Bottom line is the plc had decided they didn’t want us anymore. It’s a shame because it brought so many people to the West Somerset Railway that would never have otherwise considered it. They told their friends, etc, etc.
Barrie Childs, Festival Liaison Officer, Somerset Branch of the Campaign for Real Ale.
Follow this link to see the Somerset Gazette article:-Somerset Gazette Article.