A Beer Festival In The “Dirty Old Town” ? 24th – 25th October 2014

“A central location for you is a must as you stagger about making free with your lewd and lascivious boasts.
We know you are soft cause we’ve all seen you dancing,
We know you’re hard ’cause we all saw you drinking from noon until noon again.
You’re the boy with the filthy laugh, you’re the boy with the Arab Strap”

(“The Boy With The Arab Strap” – Belle & Sebastian)

(Video courtesy of  kkkkkklf  on YouTube)

I can’t think of a song that I like more from the 1990s. It has everything, from Stuart Murdoch’s plaintive voice, great playing, a superb chug along rhythm and a rude ending on the fade out. It is also an excellent lyric. Have a listen/watch yourself of this version played at the US Coachella Festival in 2002 – I love the adaptation of the crude outro!*

It started with a tweet. I SO wanted to factor in a reference to the Hot Chocolate smoochfest song from 1983! But to say it started there is incorrect. So I’ll start again.

This all started about a year ago, maybe more actually. A close friend of mine Gerry, asked me (because of this twaddle that I peddle) if I could put her in contact with her local CAMRA branch, I gave her the contact of the local head honcho (if such things actually exist) and I sent an email asking them to contact her.

Gerry runs St Sebastian’s Community Centre on Douglas Green in Salford. Which derived a lot – if not all – of its funding from Salford City Council. In this much bemoaned “Age of Austerity”, the Council retrenched a lot of funding under cuts from Westminster to Local Government grants. The Centre therefore, lost a lot of its funding and Gerry and the host of other people who support this vital Centre dug deep and have been working their proverbials off since, just to keep the Centre running for the local community.

Gerry’s idea, like many other places that need to raise funds, was to host a Beer Festival – she likes a beer or two herself, so she does. The local CAMRA Branch didn’t feel that they could help, with the Centre being a bit off the beaten track. So, one evening, a few of my friends, plus the lovely Atilla & I were at Gerry’s house. The question was popped. “Would you do it?”

“Yeah, go on. Let’s do it! We can do it!…….”

Those were assuredly not MY words.

I said Yes. Of course I said Yes! I couldn’t really do anything other, could I? The Centre is next to my old Primary School. A former priest from the associated Church was one of the two (yes, TWO) priests that married Atilla & I, all those years ago. All of my siblings went to the same Primary. You get the picture. I’m kind of connected to the place. I felt….obliged.

Then the initial euphoria settled. Panic set in. What the FECK do I know about setting up a beer festival? That was, of course, a rhetorical question. I know SOD ALL about it. I’ve worked a few, as some of you may know, but never set one up! I was crapping myself. Then I posted a tweet. Something along the lines of….

“I think I’ve just agreed to organise a Beer Festival. I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing. I’m shitting myself. Help!”

The response I got, within just one hour, simply blew me away. From offers from Breweries across the north of equipment, beer and advice, logistics of storage of beer, to followers offering help with design both of leaflets and a web page! All free! People offering to help to staff in any way they could. To be honest, it knocked me sideways. I’m not gilding anything when I say I was humbled. Hell, it still brings a tear to my eye. Yes, I’m a soft old git!

The general idea, is to host a small Festival. Because the location is far from huge, as well as it being a first attempt – we don’t want unsold beer now, do we? Certainly no more that 30 casks and maybe as few as 25. Writing this nonsense, tasting as much beer as I have (despite what I’ve said to successive Doctors!), I’ve come to have an idea (well, MY idea) as to which are my favourite breweries, making some of the best beer in the North. Yes, the choices will be subjective. They’ll be my choices, how could they be anything BUT subjective. Most selections – no doubt – are made by committee. IN this case, there’s only me! I’ll try my best to vary the choices, I’ll try my damnedest to get great beer and I’ll work my nuts off to keep it right, so it tastes good. I promise.

Likelihood is it will be a ticket event, but not firmly made up my mind yet. Not sure about if there’ll be any “entertainment” or not yet, but I’ve got an idea of what I would like. That will be kept firmly “sous le chapeau” (in case it doesn’t come off!)

Having set the date this week, we have four months to pull this off. And I still haven’t a Scooby as to how we will. I’ve had further offers of advice and meetings will be had to scour the brains of those who’ve done it independently. This is not a pop at CAMRA, I’m a member myself for which I make no apologies. There are some fantastic people locally within the campaign, some of whom have offered to help. Help which I welcome with open arms!

The offers of help have started to bear fruit – today I received a proposed design for posters, which could indeed transfer to tickets etc. And let’s face it, if we’re going to pull this off, I’m going to rely on all that help I’ve already been offered – and more besides.

I’ll be approaching some of you – you know who you are – over the following weeks to cash in these blank cheques I’ve been given, I’ll be contacting brewers (have already started to be fair!) and looking to beg and borrow equipment – and pay where necessary. All with the aim of raising as much cash as possible to keep this invaluable local resource open.

More updates as we progress.

Anyone fancy pulling a pint or two?

Follow Progress on Twitter @salfordbeerfest

*”What do you make of the cool set in London? You’re constantly updating your hit parade of your ten biggest wanks.
She’s a waitress and she’s got style, Sunday bath time could take a while.”

(If you have the album/single, turn up the volume on the fadeout!)