Thursday, 3 May 2018

Even more club stuff

I wish I had more sources like Anthony Avis's wonderful memoir. It tells you what was really going on behind the scenes.

Here's another bit about committemen and how they had to be treated:

"I wrote earlier of Hubert Robson's phenomenal capacity for alcohol; I must point out he was not in any way exceptional, having regard to the trade in which he was engaged. It was more the rule than the exception that all in the drinks trade drank, on the basis that example led sales, encouraged bonhomie, and generally set the tone of any encounter. In those astonishing years when Hammonds invited the management consultants in to tell them how to run their own business, the consultants averred there was no difference at all between a brewery representative on the road and one in any other business. It was nonsense, to their way of thinking, that a salesman could not adhere to a fixed timetable of calls, and moreover, do them in normal hours and accept nothing stronger than a cup of tea. In the late 1950s Hammonds actually reorganised their trade representatives according to these brave new ways. They were equipped with portable display cases, diaries to arrange daytime calls, instructions that there would be no night calls and certainly not any drinking on duty. It lasted the better part of a year, to the bemusement of free trade customers, particularly workingmen's club committees, until it was cancelled in the face of dropping trade and derision from the competitors. Then, drinking with the customer, and that meant the committee of the really big club accounts, was essential. By virtue of being a committee member, a man acquired importance and a small chance to get his head into the free drinks trough - and once a committeeman, he was in a position to influence the placing or refusal of large orders. This was just not understood by the newly fashionable consultancy advisers; they were all London based, which did not help; there was no comprehension of the structure of working class society in the north."
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 92.
If you had come to expect free drink from brewer representatives, I can imagine that you wouldn't be very impressed by some middle-class twat with a display case. Clearly the people in charge were clueless about how the club trade worked. Bloody southerners.

This next part is about meetings of the local brewers association:

"There might be other items on the agenda, but the perennial one was the control of wholesale prices, and the prevention of undercutting. The curious theme which ran through the meetings was that nobody ever accused anybody else by name of breaking the rules, which led to convoluted forms of address and complaint. Passions ran high - of this there was no doubt; many speakers were so overwrought by the atmosphere of the meeting and the matter under debate, and the fact that they were on their feet in front of an audience, that words literally failed them from time to time. The logical exchange of reasoned argument rarely survived the first few minutes, and the detached observer might be put in mind of a political rally at election time. Speakers on their feet exploded in indignation, the sly eyed sat in their chairs, listened and occasionally spoke sotto voce to their neighbours. There was only one real culprit - NB [Newcastle Breweries] -, but they were so powerful that none dared to name them. Their representative, always George Brown, with a smile on his face of professional good humour, and looking like the cat which had eaten the canary, stuck to his familiar line, that the enemy was the Northern Clubs' Federated Brewery. This was an interesting diversion, because they were indeed feared and were true rivals. They had begun as a co-operative venture by the workingmen's clubs after the First World War starting their own brewery when the established breweries refused to give them special terms of purchase. They prospered, with the loyalty of the vast club trade on Tyneside then in its prime, and by producing a very palatable draught beer at a competitive price. In the 1960s they rebuilt their brewery and went on to expand their business in Yorkshire and the Midlands. They handled NBA [Newcastle Brown Ale] at a pricing structure suspected by the rest of the brewers to be so advantageous to them and NB [Newcastle Breweries] as to cripple competition. They were not members of the association and did not wish to be, so they were genuine mavericks without a weakness; their image hung over all meetings of the association like a chilling wraith when beer prices were discussed, and George Brown, who knew the answers to the questions being put, just smiled and said nothing."
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 126.

Interesting to see how afraid everyone was of Federation. Again, it's another indication of how important the club trade was at the time. I imagine the thought of clubs making their own beer and squeezing brewers out of the trade must have made their blood run cold.

It's slightly odd that Federation should have expanded into Yorkshire as there was already a clubs brewery there: Yorkshire Clubs. Who were eventally bought up by Federation in 1975. Maybe having their trade poached was why they decided to sell up.

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