By Vanessa Pearce
Amateur radio use in the UK has seen a “significant” rise during the coronavirus lockdown as people seek new ways of staying connected. The national body that represents users – the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) – has said many people who formerly enjoyed the hobby are also returning to it.
Mark Rider’s social life before the coronavirus lockdown consisted of the occasional trip to the pub, rehearsing with musician friends and visiting his wife in her care home.
“But when I knew that wasn’t going to happen any time soon I decided to dust off my amateur radio equipment to seek out some other social interaction,” he says.
Mr Rider, a retired engineer from North Warwickshire, said “ragchewing” – or chatting to people on the airwaves – “has become one of the highlights of my day”.
“Because I live on my own, and because of lockdown, I knew I couldn’t do what I used to do, which wasn’t going to be very good for me or my mental health.”
The 67-year-old says keeping in touch with others has been more important since his wife was taken into care after a stroke.
“Just speaking to somebody else in the same situation is very rewarding,” he says.
The RSGB defines amateur radio as a “technical hobby for people who want to learn about, use and experiment with wireless communications”, like Mr Rider, who uses his radio kit to speak to others using designated radio frequencies.
Steve Thomas, RSGB general manager, says the organisation has experienced a threefold increase in the number of people asking to sit licensing exams since social distancing rules came into place. There are currently about 75,000 licensed users in the UK.
“Across the country, clubs and individual radio amateurs are supporting one another by setting up ‘nets’, or online meetings,” Mr Thomas says.[…]