Opinion: A New Club Every Year

Facebook has a habit of trawling through timelines and digging up “one this day x years ago” photos.

TARG's Committee with Scott Ross from Phopenix FM
The launch of TARG, 4 years ago at Phoenix FM

Today’s flashback photo was taken at the launch of a new amateur radio club, TARG, exactly 4 years ago (See Thames Amateur Radio Group Launches 15-Sep-2012). I shared this on social media today, and within minutes, Trevor M5AKA remarked that we need more amateur radio clubs. Personally, I agree – absolutely we do – more people spreading the word about the hobby and getting out there to have fun with radio.

This month’s Radcom has an interesting letter from Donald 5B4AGQ, which mentions that a few years back, his club was contacted by a local dog charity asking to play some music at their a dog fun day! It’s not the first time that amateur radio and community radio have got confused. Ironically, TARG launched at community radio station Phoenix FM in Brentwood, following Essex Ham’s interview on Phoenix FM with Scott Ross back in July 2012.

This led to some thought and online discussion about the quantity of clubs in Essex…

Essex Clubs

In Essex, we’re doing remarkably well for clubs. Our Essex Clubs page lists 22 clubs, repeater groups and special interest groups. Five new clubs launched in the last five years:

  • 2011: Essex Ham
  • 2012: Thames Amateur Radio Group
  • 2013: Thurrock Acorns Amateur Radio Club
  • 2014: Essex Amateur Radio DX Group
  • 2015: Secret Nuclear Bunker Contest Group

Prior to that, the Essex CW Club in 2009, and Dengie Hundred ARS in 1992.

From one a decade, to one a year! Encouraging stuff.

We’ve also seen the launch of initiatives such as the Essex Skills Night (hosted by the Chelmsford ARS who celebrate their 80th anniversary this year – thanks for that stat Trevor!), the Thurrock Acorns 2m Activity Days and the Essex Ham Monday Night and Essex YL nets. Those activities, together with the very popular SEARS-run Canvey Rally, all help to bring amateurs together, regardless of club affiliation and geography.

Clubs – Where next?

Of course, although there are 22 groups in Essex, not all of them are active and only a fraction promote amateur radio training. As Mitchell 2E0EMO flagged in his recent rather controversial forum post, An Emos view – an open view, not all clubs are focused on the younger generation. He’s one of the younger amateurs around, and his comment that “There are no Lads / True Geeks clubs around” is a concern.

We’ve not had a new club launch this year (yet…). Is there space for another club in the area, perhaps with a focus on youngsters / geeks and/or the Raspberry Pi community? Should the existing clubs do more to focus on tomorrow’s generation of amateurs? Or should existing clubs take an annual objective look at themselves and review how they’re serving the hobby as a whole.

Nationally, the hobby is riding on the wave of awareness after Tim Peake’s ISS mission, which certainly helped to raise the profile of the hobby. Here in Essex, we’ve got new clubs starting, more clubs offering training, and some strong awareness. All good news.

So – some open questions:

  1. Do we need more clubs? And if so, what do we want from Essex Club #23?
  2. How important is it for today’s amateur to be a member of a club?

Our site has some clever polling and survey software – anyone interested in us running an “Essex Clubs” survey to get a snapshot of how we all feel about clubs? If there’s enough interest, we’ll give it a try.

Promo Videos

A reminder that the RSGB’s “Amateur Radio – A hobby for the 21st Century video” can be an excellent tool to help promote the hobby. We make use of it at public events and on schools visits, and we’ve seen other clubs make good use of it too. If it’s appropriate to share it, demo it, or forward it – please do, as that what’s it’s there for.

About two years ago, we released a “2-minute teaser”. It’s nowhere near as polished as the RSGB’s video, but it’s a) local, and b) short. As we now have a bunch of better pictures, we’ve remixed it for 2016. There are a few familiar faces in there too. Here’s the 2016 version of our “Amateur Radio – Two Minute Teaser.

Essex Ham – 2 Minute Teaser (2016 Mix)

This one’s also worth a watch for an alternative view on promoting the hobby – “Ham Radio Explained – as fast as possible”:

As always, comments and feedback appreciated!

Pete M0PSX

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