Knowledge Sharing: Insights from Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Festival Volunteers

Gillian Ragsdell, Allan Jepson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Improving Knowledge Transfer in Festivals: Lessons from CAMRA Volunteers
Festivals are often vital for the survival of an organisation; they are especially vital to not-for-profit organisations since they generally provide an important income stream that supports the pursuit of the organisation’s core activities and, additionally, raise the profile of the organisation. This is the case for the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) which organises around 200 festivals each year across the UK. CAMRA’s festivals provide opportunities to showcase real ale, increase membership and to general surplus funds. So, festivals are fundamental to the sustainability of CAMRA and festival management is a key activity for CAMRA volunteers.
Some CAMRA festivals have been running for nearly 40 years. Over the years festival volunteers have gained extensive experience, know-how and expertise in organising successful festivals. However, the special characteristics of voluntary sector organisations can bring particular knowledge challenges in the management of festivals. If there is no formal knowledge management strategy in place in a volunteer-led organisation, the transient nature of festival workers can mean that their knowledge is lost and festival skills have to be relearned by incoming volunteers. Explicitly managing knowledge can ensure its efficient creation, capture, storing, sharing and use – it can also reduce the need to regularly ‘reinvent the wheel. An investigation into some of the knowledge management processes in CAMRA festivals was the focus of a British Academy funded project and forms the basis of this paper so as to contribute to the ‘Working the Waves’ theme of the conference.
The project sought to identify how and why festival volunteers share their knowledge and expertise. Three case study festivals were selected (based on factors such as longevity and size) and interviews and focus groups were employed therein to collect rich, qualitative data about knowledge sharing activities of festival committee members and festival workers. Data was then analysed and findings from the various festival roles were compared. The key findings related to:
• The use the master-apprentice model for passing on expertise
• The motivators for sharing expertise
• The value of post-project reviews
• The flow of knowledge both within and beyond the festival scope
• The effect of the physical layout on knowledge sharing
• The effect that accountability had on knowledge management in certain aspects of festival management
With support from appropriate literature, these findings form the core of the paper and trigger the drawing out of broad lessons for improving knowledge transfer in festivals per se.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-296
JournalInternational Journal of Event and Festival Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • knowledge management, CAMRA beer festivals, volunteers, knowledge sharing


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