Essex Skills Night Retrospective

This post was inspired by a reminder from Kristian M0SSK that the first Skills Night took place six years ago!

Monday the 20th of January 2014 saw the first Essex Skills Night take place at the Danbury Village Hall. Six years on, the Essex Skills Night is sadly no longer running, but for a quick trip down memory lane, here is a look back at the early days of the Essex Skills Night.

CARS Skills Workshop - Group Photo Jan 2104
CARS Skills Workshop – Group Photo Jan 2014 courtesy of Kristian Baker 2E0SSX, now M0SSK

What was the Skills Night?

The original aim of the event when it launched back in 2014 was to try to bring Essex amateurs together, especially those new to the hobby, or looking to gain new skills. The target was to have around six demonstrations taking place at each event – some aimed at beginners, some covering new modes, some offering equipment demonstrations, and some offering tips or services. Here’s a summary of just some of the topics covered in the first few years of the Essex Skills Night:

Making Slim Jim antennasPortable OpsD-Star DigitalDMR Digital
PSK and JT Data ModesEcholinkLogging softwareMicrowaves
Construction & SolderingSSTVHF PedestrianAntenna modelling
Storm trackingRAYNETAPRS trackingProgramming handsets
Live CW station3D PrintingSatellitesRaspberry Pi
Software-Defined RadiosRepeatersQuadcopter DronesReverse Beacon Network
High Altitude BalloonsArduinoRadio nostalgiaWorking the ISS

 

Flashback: Photos & Video

For a trip down memory-lane, here is launch-event video, from January 2014, and some photos from 2014-2017:

 

 

Skills Night History

The concept for the Skills Night was created by Pete M0PSX, with input and support from Jim 2E0RMI, Clive G1EUC and Sarah M6PSK. The idea started life as “Foundation Plus” in 2012, where newcomers to the hobby would be able to to meet to discuss next-steps, and to fill in the gaps left by the Foundation course.

After one local club passed on the idea of a monthly Foundation Plus event, Pete was encouraged to pitch the concept to the Chelmsford ARS, who’s training team adopted the concept, with some modifications to encompass all licence-levels. Thanks to Clive Ward G1EUC, sadly no longer with us and much-missed, for his support of, and dedication to, the event.

The first event was held in January 2014, hosted by the Chelmsford ARS training team. Originally known as “Skills Workshop”,  the event went on to attract an average of between 50 and 90 people per night from Essex, Kent, Suffolk, London and beyond in its first 3 years.

Key to its success was the open nature of the event. From the outset, it was agreed that the event would be hosted by CARS, and jointly promoted by CARS and Essex Ham. Monday Night was chosen to coincide with Essex Ham’s Monday Night Net, to provide a meeting place for regular net attendees to meet in person. Early events featured a “Monday Night Net Live” for those unable to attend who wished to take part from home. Other groups, most notably the Essex CW Club were invited to be a part of the event. Like Essex Ham, Essex CW Club has a “virtual” nature, so their attendance at Skills Night provided a focus for its members to meet and share CW tips.

Due to the multi-club nature, it was agreed from the outset that a club-agnostic brand and website would be used, under the neutral name of “Ham Skills”. Here’s a screenshot of the original HamSkills microsite:

Skills Night Microsite, hosted by Essex Ham and branded for CARS
Skills Night Microsite, hosted by Essex Ham and branded for CARS

In November 2015, the most successful event was held – with 93 attendees in a very crowded Danbury Village Hall. Over subsequent years, the event evolved, and eventually transitioned from a neutral ‘Ham Skills event’, to a CARS-branded event. Late 2017 saw a change of management at CARS, and Skills Night, with Pete M0PSX being replaced by Peter M0PSD as the event coordinator. June 2019 saw the final Essex Skills Night take place, with the final event being merged with the CARS Table-top sale.

 

Skills Stats

For the first 4 years, a signing-in book was maintained, normally looked after by the “greeter”, Sarah M6PSK. In the first four years, we had 321 unique callsigns in attendance, plus 28 SWLs. That broke down to 86 Foundation, 47 Intermediate and 188 at Full.

Essex Skills Night Attendance 2014-2016
Essex Skills Night Attendance 2014-2016

Top Ten Attendees

Essex Ham only has the data for the first 42 events. Here are some notable attendees from 2014-2017, compiled by event organise Pete M0PSX:

  • Myra M0MYR and David G3SVI – Heartfelt thanks for the hard work in the kitchen, keeping everyone fed-and-watered during some very busy nights
  • Graham G7JYD wins the prize for attending 38 of the 42 events, and being the only regular that I couldn’t get to put on a demo. Graham also wins a prize for most-photographed tea drinker
  • Chris G0IPU – attending 36 of 42 events and a vital part of the event. Chris always had a soldering-iron always on-hand, and took over presenting the quiz in 2015!
  • David M1DCJ makes it into the top ten as a huge supporter of the event, attending an impressive 36 out of 42 events
  • Trevor M5AKA, plus camera, also signed to 36 out of the 42 events, and did a sterling job of promoting the event via Twitter and Southgate – spreading the word beyond Essex
  • Jim 2E0RMI was a regular at 34 of the 42 events normally running an Echolink station, or being on-hand with “Ask Jim” advice for newcomers. Kudos too to his better half Ann for providing the cakes (and jam tarts!) and for helping Myra and David ‘backstage’!
  • Charlie M0PZT, who was also there for 34 events, either there as M0PZT, or as HamGoodies – Charlie was also the first presenter – launching his logging app at the first event
  • Richard G7OED and Dorothy M0LMR, also clocked up 34 out of 42, although Richard was split across 2 callsigns, and Dorothy across 3. They were both massive supporters of the Skills Night concept and its legacy events
  • Jim 2E0JTW and Glynis 2E0CUQ made 33 appearances, selling engraved badges and pens, and often being the first port-of-call for new M6s who’d just got their first callsign.
  • Rob M0KCP – There for 32 of the first 42 events representing the Essex CW Club (a vital component of the Skills Night). Rob was one of the event’s most passionate supporters.
  • Thanks to Sarah M6PSK for her sterling work at the door, getting people to sign in, pointing them at the right people to speak to, getting the milk, and helping to preserve the sanity of Pete M0PSX

Honourable mentions to a few names from outside the top 10 attendees: Terry G3VFC for almost hitting the top ten and regularly making the trip from Kent with fellow amateurs in tow. Also to Ed G8FAX, Mike G4NVT, Steve G4GHO, Dean G4WQI and Steve M0SHQ who attended at least 50% of the events and frequently put on an activity. Also to Nick M0NFE for helping out on the Essex Ham table, and to Peter G0DZB for owning Peter’s corner for a good percentage of the events in the first 4 years. Thanks also to Murray G6JYB for compiling the questions for many of the event’s quizzes. Salute too to Kristian for often being on hand with the camera just at the right moment. Final honourable mention goes to Clive G1UEC, who attended all of the first 19 events, until his sad passing in September 2015 – without Clive, the Skills Night wouldn’t have happened and wouldn’t have been the success that it was. There was no bigger supporter for an Essex-wide skills-sharing event than Clive.

Apologies if I missed your name from the roll call – especially if you supported the event either by putting on a demo, promoting the event, or just being a part of it. Happy days, and I genuinely think we made a difference!

 

Skills Legacy

The Skills Night concept, pioneered in Danbury, has since been adopted in other parts of the UK. The most notable of these has been the Suffolk RED event which launched in last 2015. Broadly following the Essex format, Suffolk RED was started as a collaboration of several clubs in Suffolk, with representatives from clubs serving on the event’s steering committee, and anyone who’s attended a RED event will recognise the hallmarks of what was started back in January 2014 – See the video below.

Back in Essex, in 2018, the newly-formed Langdon Hills ARC launched its Progression Night, briefly reuniting many of the original Skills Night organisations to help to share skills and encourage progression in the hobby, and showing the need to support ongoing skills development and the need to encourage people to stay in the hobby.


Suffolk RED Promo Video

Langdon Hills ARC Progression Night

At the request of other clubs, we prepared The Skills Night Formula, and the event has been featured in RadCom, Practical Wireless, on TX Factor, and at the RSGB’s annual convention.

 

For more information, or a look back at the first 4 years of the Skills Night, see the following links:

 

Related Links

4 Comments

  1. Avatar John Bowen 21 January 2020 Reply
    • Pete M0PSX Pete M0PSXAuthor 21 January 2020 Reply
  2. Avatar Dave M0HBV 21 January 2020 Reply
    • Pete M0PSX Pete M0PSXAuthor 21 January 2020 Reply

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *