Fears Bedford beer festival could call time because people aren’t supping enough ale

It’s been declining steadily since the pandemic
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Bedford’s annual Beer and Cider Festival (BBCF) could be scrapped after 45 years because people aren’t drinking enough ale – and there aren’t enough volunteers to run it.

Attendance at the four-day October event held in the town’s Corn Exchange has been declining steadily since the Covid pandemic.

Now organiser Katherine Lilley has warned members of the North Bedfordshire branch of Camra (Campaign for Real Ale): “The festival is in grave danger. Unless we can get some more volunteers it will die. We need people to help with the planning and organising, or quite simply there will be no festival.”

Have you fallen out of love with the beer festival? (Picture: Pixabay)Have you fallen out of love with the beer festival? (Picture: Pixabay)
Have you fallen out of love with the beer festival? (Picture: Pixabay)

Branch secretary Peter Argyle confirmed in a newsletter: “Discussion has begun on whether to hold the next BBCF in October 2024.

“Unfortunately, support for this and other local Camra festivals throughout the country has declined in recent years, but we cannot continue to run a local festival without making a working profit. Nor can we continue to run a local festival without sufficient support from branch members.”

Around 100 real ales from around the country were on sale at last year’s festival but attendance was noticeably down on previous events.

Camra’s national membership has slumped to around 150,000 with the organisation racked by rows over whether it should modernise and support craft beer as well as traditional real ale.

There were also accusations the leadership was too woke for trying to make the organisation more diverse and escape its image as a drinking club for elderly, bearded, beer-bellied white men.

Last year it hit the headlines after telling members not to talk about pub crawls because that might imply they were not drinking responsibly.

One member said: “It would be a real shame if the Bedford festival was to die. Not only is it a great opportunity to taste beers from further afield than Bedfordshire, but there is some wonderful camaraderie. In recent years, though, there has been a drop in attendances and it’s lost some of the fun and atmosphere.”

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