Wessex Ham is being set up to make Amateur Radio more accessible.
By working together, clubs and individuals can offer a better, more accessible, and wider range of Amateur Radio activities than any single club.
In a largely rural area like the South West of England, very few (if any) clubs are able to offer the whole spectrum of Amateur Radio activities to folk interested in, or already licenced for, Amateur Radio. By creating a single gateway for the South West, accessed online 24/7, together we can showcase the very best our hobby has to offer, and give everyone access - whenever they want it, and wherever they are.
Today, the majority of people access things via the internet: Shopping, Training, Hobbies, Social groups, etc. We expect near instant access and high quality.
If the only access to Amateur Radio is by visiting a physical club that meets monthly or even weekly some distance from where you live and at a time that's inconvenient, then you've a lot less likely to try get involved.
The idea behind Wessex Ham is that participating local clubs become 'hubs' in a much wider network, sharing their strengths, and gaining from the different strengths of others. Not all clubs can provide training; not all clubs do contests; not all clubs can support people interested in data comms, or electronics, or antenna construction. But through Wessex Ham, individuals should be able to connect with others with similar interests, and access expertise relatively close to them, so that they can engage with the hobby when they want - without having to wait for a meeting, or finding that the nearest club to them doesn't really 'do' what they are looking for.
The internet has provided us with a solution. And it's already working.
Good evidence for this is in the huge number of people taking Foundation exams now that they are available online. Yes, the pandemic and lockdown have given people time and energy, but the key to unlock the recent large rise in Amateur Radio participation has been online access.
'Amateur' doesn't have to mean 'Amateurish'. The word 'Amateur' is simply the opposite of 'paid'. Radio Amateurs have been, and still are, at the cutting edge of many of the latest radio communication projects. From Satellite comms (yes, we have our own satellite) to ultra low power global networks, Radio Amateurs are often leaders in their field.
So we have set up Wessex Ham not to supplant or take over from clubs, but to give people much great access to the very best the hobby can offer. Hence the thinking about 'Clubs as Hubs' in a wider network. Wessex Ham will strengthen clubs, or it will have failed. But it should do much more than that. It should act as a gateway for people in the South West to connect with every aspect of the hobby - offering the best quality we can at a time that suits people - wherever they are.
Wessex Ham is run by, and owned by, the participating clubs. It is not 'another club'. It is, or should be, a way of connecting with the hobby for people whose first thought is to turn to Mr Google, rather than hunt for a local club by looking at the list of clubs in the local library. Our aim is to provide the best quality technical and practical access that the South West has to offer.