Is the amateur radio rally/hamfest scene in the UK dying or is it just a blip that will recover like with the coming of the solar maximum I wonder?
This morning Helen and I were up at the crack of dawn to get down to Llandudno for the North Wales Amateur Radio Rally. A quick telephone call to my son Adam 2W0DPI, who had been keen to visit his first rally, revealed that he was doing zombie impressions indicating that he had partaken in ‘a good night out’ with his friends and was in no fit state. A quick check of my wallet and Helen’s purse showed we had enough cash for maybe one coffee between two. So after a visit to the nearest cash machine we headed down the A55 to Llandudno. Fortunately the road works that have plagued that section of road for about two years had gone two weeks ago and they had not found somewhere else to place them and it was a pleasant and uneventful journey.
When we arrived my pal Graham GW0HUS was waiting for us chatting and using Tony 2W0LAE and his wife to save us a parking spot. The first challenge was getting out of the car park. I was not particularly cold but it seemed more sense to get in to the rally where it was a bit warmer and chat. There seemed to be a very good turn out of people we knew making progress around the rally somewhat slow. Normally I would be as interested in standing and chatting as anything, but I wanted to get in get my purchases and be back in bed for 1300 hours as I had a thirteen hour night shift ahead of me. It took me three hours to get out. It is great to meet people and I felt a little rude to give some good pals only the briefest acknowledgment but a did get to chat to an awful lot of them. Had I had a lot more time I would have probably been there until the end or at least close too it. In that respect the rally was a success.
My friend Mike M1DAP said he thought that it was a “great disapointment”. My own opinion was not quite as bad. From my point of view it was what I expected but not what I had hoped for. The North Wales Radio Rally was in the past a ‘premium event’ and it is hard not to compare the new venue with it’s past glories. The new venue shows plenty of chance for expansion but support from the dealers is not what it might be. Three of the big dealers had masses of new and nearly new gear on sale so for anyone after a big purchase everything was there. The problem is most of us are looking for bit and pieces not radios costing thousands.
I had a list of stuff I wanted and a second list of would be nice to have if the price is right items. The component guys were nowhere to be seen. I wanted some project boxes, no go there either. I needed a speaker to replace an old one I used in my new motor, which crackles a bit. I could not even find something that basic. I did get 18 PL259 plugs in various entry sizes and a 100m reel of RG-58U. So back to eBay and the Internet to find the items I could not find at the rally. I had taken £200 to get the bits I wanted and I spent only £50 of it, that for the dealers is £150 that could have been in their pocket. Waters and Stanton failed to have the Kenwood TS-590S at the rally which was disapointing for me but a relief for Helen and the credit card. All that hard work trying to pursuade her I needed it all gone to waste. She had not caved in but I am sure the salesman’s chat along with my powers of pursuasion she would have done. I am sure I could have put up with the cold shoulder for a little while when she realised had been stung and I am sure she would have used the rig a million times over the next twelve months as the reason she could buy this pair of shoes and that dress.
So the rally was not all people hoped, including me, but is this a sign the scene is dying? I seriously hope not, but the experience of being disapointed is one that seems to reflect the experience from most rallies. If we don’t pursuade the dealers to attend these events then we will not get the punters through the doors and they will die and so too will that great feeling we get meeting people who up until then were just voices in the ether.
As radio amateurs if we don’t want to loose these events we need to support them by getting out and spending money. If the dealers see it is a money spinner then word spreads and we get more dealers. More dealers means a good feedback and more punters. It is either a downward spiral or an upward one and at the moment it seems it could go either way. In this area we seem to be experiencing a bit of a revival in the hobby and these new hams need gear, the market is out there, but you cannot buy what is not there.
To the dealers who were not at Llandudno I plead with you to be there next year and make it twice as big. If you bring it they will come and if you have it we will spend.