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SNAPSHOT: The Changing Image of "Beer Festivals"

How one picture shows how far Beer Events have come within my own beer corner in eleven years. 

Whilst recently clearing out some stuff my mother happened upon the above newspaper cutting from Thursday 8th September 2005. As with all such memorabilia it shows a frozen moment in time and one that instantly spawned the words of this post. 

What we are looking at is an image from the 14th annual Saddleworth Beer Festival as reported on by the Oldham Advertiser. To shed further light on the information already given the top row (left to right) consists of my father, my brother and long-time friend Wes. The bottom row (left to right) holds my adoptive-Uncle Simon, real Uncle David and Aunt Marie. Here are my family in the local paper enjoying a beer festival eleven years ago. 

A further caveat is that this was one of three consecutive years that my family group, with a few additions on top of this in other years, made the main picture to coincide with this occasion’s article. With a mixture of ages and a biggish group we must have seemed the ideal target for photographic evidence, with most of the other attendees being lonesome ale drinkers or at most groups of two. Year after year my family group may have been the only faces to prove that beer bridged all ages and genders at this festival. 

You see, the Saddleworth Beer Festival was a rather small do held in a room in the local museum and often featured no more than 14 beers. The article to accompany the photograph proudly boasts that it features seven local breweries - and at the time that was a huge feat. 

I wasn't living in the area the three times my family made the papers and only attended the festival once in around 2008 (failing to make the paper that year – my quiff wasn’t as magnificent perhaps.) What is perhaps most telling in the unwritten story of this photograph though - to us at least - is the omission of our friend Luke. 

Luke should be stood on the top row to the right of Wes. He enjoyed this festival as much as the rest and was part of the group to make the paper. However he excluded himself from the photograph by choice when the Oldham Advertiser cameraman asked. Why? 

Because Luke didn't want to be associated with the types who attend Real Ale festivals. 

Yes Luke was worried about his "street-cred" by appearing in this photograph. 

This is the same Luke who has been to most Indy Man Beer Cons with me and was disappointed to miss out on a ticket this year. He has certainly been pictured at that festival many times without embarrassment. 

And if you want to add further fuel to that little fire - the bottom row in this picture would not even consider going to an event like Indy Man if you bought the ticket for them. Yet they travelled 20 miles for this tiny Saddleworth festival in 2005.

So here we have a little snapshot of local beer festival history. A time when beer festivals could be tiny, the pool of beer to appear on the bar small and the idea of being young and seen at one terrifying. Eleven years on and, whilst we all know the times have certainly changed, it’s certainly worth remembering that even my generation of drinkers can remember simpler times. We didn’t know what a hipster was then. We just came for the fact that an event about beer existed. 


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