ARRL Visits British Hams, RSGB at National Hamfest
Earlier this month, ARRL Marketing Manager Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R, represented the League at the National Hamfest in the United Kingdom. Billed as the biggest convention in the UK, the National Hamfest “kicked off” Ham Week UK, October 1-10. Now in its second year, the hamfest is sponsored by both the Lincoln Short Wave Club and the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB). Ham Week concluded with the RSGB Convention -- formerly the HF Convention -- held October 8-10. According to Inderbitzen, the RSGB Convention is a smaller event than the National Hamfest, and includes lectures and presentations for HF and VHF interests, but no exhibits.
Once at the hamfest venue, Inderbitzen met up with RSGB Commercial Manager Mark Allgar, M1MPA, and RSGB Advertising Manager Chris Danby, G0DWV. “Mark shared some background with me about the convention, a collaboration between the RSGB and the Lincoln Short Wave Club,” Inderbitzen said. “The convention is a fundraiser and a club activity for the Lincoln Short Wave Club. I had dinner one evening with the show’s organizer, Clive Catton, G1BSN. Just like most of the larger hamfests and conventions in the US, the show’s success hinges on a single event organizer who is skillful at working with many, many volunteers. Clive is that guy!”
Allgar and Danby had arranged a very visible stand for the ARRL, close to the RSGB exhibit. “They had also run a few news releases, mentioning the ARRL’s participation,” Inderbitzen said. “The show ran from 10 AM-4 PM on Friday and Saturday (how very civilized!). About 3000 people came to the National Hamfest and I enjoyed the tremendous variety in regional accents and dialects. The majority of attendees were from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.”
Inderbitzen said he enjoyed visiting with some of the other RSGB officials, including General Manager Peter Kirby, G0TWW, and President Dave Wilson, M0OBW: “Dave’s interaction with RSGB members is exceptionally warm, personal and in-touch. Peter mentioned that through his effort, the RSGB had purchased a LUSO tower after last year’s convention.” The tower is awaiting installation on the grounds of Bletchley Park -- site of the RSGB National Amateur Radio Centre -- presently under construction.
“I’d be remiss not to mention the RSGB’s traveling teaching exhibit, demonstrated to me by Carlos Eavis, G0AKI,” Inderbitzen explained. Carlos is responsible for this Amateur Radio classroom-on-wheels, GB4FUN -- complete with HF, VHF and satellite station. You could eat off the floor of this shack! When I asked where all the wires were, Carlos explained that they organized the operating positions to be very neat and orderly, so as not to ‘scare away’ parents and school teachers. Handwritten thank-you letters from children around the UK who have enjoyed a visit from GB4FUN are posted on the inside walls of the vehicle.” The mobile classroom has supported radio contacts between schools and the International Space Station, a program sponsored by NASA, ARRL, AMSAT and other international space agencies.
Back at ARRL Headquarters in Newington, ARRL Membership Manager Diane Petrilli, KB1RNF, e-mailed the more than 1000 ARRL members residing in the UK, to let them know that the ARRL would be attending the National Hamfest and the RSGB Convention. “This contributed to visits from many well-wishers, including a few folks who remarked that they hadn’t planned on coming to the convention until they received the nice invitation from ARRL,” Inderbitzen explained. “I was overwhelmed with handshakes and ‘welcomes.’ More than one British ARRL member told me how much they enjoyed QST. Many of the new members who I signed up were familiar with QST through a local radio club subscription. I also received positive comments about ARRL publications, most notably The ARRL Handbook and ARRL’s PIC Programming for Beginners.”
Throughout the event, Inderbitzen posted photos and comments on the ARRL’s Facebook page and said that some visitors stopped by after having seen the Facebook posts: “One new member even asked that I post his call sign on the page, so I did one better and posted a list of new members every couple of hours. The positive feedback was great!”
ICOM, Kenwood and Yaesu were at the National Hamfest; WiNRADiO Communications also had a substantial stand and display. There were a handful of smaller manufacturers, some touting antennas, QRP kits and crank up/down towers (which seems to be the standard in the UK). There were many more dealers -- big and small -- carrying box radios, antennas, QRP kits (including a Kanga kit dealer), connectors and supplies.
Following the close of the convention on Saturday, Allgar took Inderbitzen to his home in Bedford, England. “The trip included a tour of RSGB Headquarters, located in a relatively new business park in Bedford,” he said. “This is a modest administrative office -- owned by RSGB -- with a handful of staff, plus offices for Peter Kirby and Mark Allgar.” While in the UK, Inderbitzen met with RadCom Managing Editor Elaine Richards, G4LFM; RadCom is the member journal of the RSGB, just as QST is the member journal of the ARRL. “Elaine’s work and nearly all of RadCom’s editorial contribution are completed in a virtual, online setting,” he explained. “She works from home and travels to RSGB Headquarters a couple of times during monthly deadlines.”
Inderbitzen thanked the organizers and ARRL members who made his visit to the UK National Hamfest so enjoyable: “This is an event that promises to keep growing. I hope many more members will save the date for next year, September 30 and October 1 at the Newark and Nottinghamshire Showground, just ‘across the pond.’”