A “hotbed” of activity and “growth” membership are not the two words that roll off the tongue when you think of amateur radio.
That is, however, exactly how the president of the Richmond Amateur Radio Club (RARC), Urey Chan, describes the surprising movement taking place within the confines of organizations across the Lower Mainland and Canada.
According to Chan, 40 per cent of the national growth in amateur radio licenses is here in the Lower Mainland, where the interest in the activity is matching pace with the increase in population.
And, although not known for being a sexy hobby by any stretch, the Richmond president puts the majority of the recent rise in popularity in the formerly dusty pastime down to people’s preoccupation with being prepared for a natural disaster.
“The president of our national organization was in Vancouver recently and he spoke of a demographic analysis, which showed that amateur radio is actually on the rise in Canada,” said Chan.
“It just doesn’t receive the media profile it deserves; it’s actually rising at the same growth rate of the population in the Lower Mainland.
“It is (sexy) when you tie it to emergency operations and preparedness; people’s eyes widen and all of a sudden they’re interested when you mention the connection.
“That’s by far the main reason for the growth; 40 per cent of which, in terms of the national figures, comes from the Lower Mainland. This is the hotbed here for amateur radio.”
The spike in interest in the hobby is, partly, why the RARC, which dates back to the ‘60s, is hosting its first ever swap meet (AKA hamfest) on Saturday, April 8 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at South Arm United Church, at 11051 No 3 Rd.
One of the features of the event will be a ham radio station on site for the public to contact the special radio station at Vimy Ridge in France, where Richmond resident and amateur radio operator Don Studney, along with 16 fellow enthusiasts from across North America will be broadcasting 24/7 around the world, for 10 straight days, to mark the 100th year since the famous Canadian First World War victory.
The event will also include a display of emergency communications equipment from local municipalities and amateur radio organizations.
“This is the first time we’ve done this in Richmond, but we hope it will become an annual event,” said Chan, noting his club has 35 members.
“It was never really in the club’s culture to do something like this, we were more of a technical organization.
“It’s only recently that they’ve started to integrate more into the community. Also, because of the club’s changing demographics – we’ve now got between 25 and 30 per cent women as members – that changes the way the club thinks. And, in order to survive, we had to open up more to the public.”
Chan is hoping for between 200 and 500 people at the event.
More information about the club is available online at RARclub.ca.