I see that the Chesterfield Rally has been cancelled due to the spiralling costs of their venue. While I was never likely to visiting this particular event (too far from my stomping grounds) I find it particularly sad to see yet another amateur radio event bite the dust. Maybe I am just an old dinosaur but the slow demise of the radio rally scene removes one of the most enjoyable part of the hobby. First you made friends on air and then every now and then the rallies gave a chance to put faces to names or at least faces to call-signs. Rallies always gave everyone something to talk about for weeks either side of the actual event. First there was 'Whose going?' and 'How are we getting there?' type discussions and then there was always those bargains you bought or just missed and moaning about warm beer, poor catering and the fact that there were too many computer stalls.
Everyone blames computers, the Internet and eBay in particular for the demise of the rally scene, but the problem runs deeper. Society these days is becoming more insular and the hobby itself is suffering. The downward spiral of the scene started with the high cost of venues meaning that entry fees were introduced, which led to less visitors, overcrowded venues, which led to less visitors, the infiltration of computer software and hardware sellers, which led to less visitors and so on. Less visitors meant the dealers making less profit so they stayed away and less dealers meant less visitors. Less rallies means less rekindled friendships, and less rekindled friendships mean less time spent on the air and less on air activity leads to people going off and doing something else. So we face this downward spiral, but what can be done? RSGB seems to think that having one big national rally is the answer, but the rally equivalent of a Superstore is really not the answer, it just drives the smaller cheaper venues out of business. Maybe the answer is to return to basics and try to arrange small local events at venues that cost little or nothing. Radio hams are usually frugal beings and if an event is free to get in and there are bargains to be had you stand a better chance of getting them there than charging £5 and having all the big gun retailers there.