A LECTURER brought together 50,000 creepy-crawlies and 2,000 tarantula fanatics for an event which has become known as the Spider Crufts.

Ray Hale has organised the British Tarantula Society (BTS) Exhibition for the last 21 years and said this year was a huge success.

The exhibition, now in its 29th year, started off as an educational display back in 1985, but has since developed into a huge eight-legged show mimicking the dog talent show Crufts.

Mr Hale said: “The Crufts line came from an overzealous journalist, but it’s been great for us.

“We’re all about education and conservation but we decided to try it out as a bit of an informative thing.

“It started off as a bit of fun, but as the years went by the guys became really involved in it and took it very seriously.

The 52-year-old, from Polegate, added: “There were about 150 to 200 species being judged on their colour, their health, how well they were being kept and that’s when the journalist came up with the Crufts line.

“It’s a nice line, but we don’t make them jump through hoops or anything like that.

“The spiders are judged by myself, my wife Angela and the BTS chair- man Pete Kirk.

“I’ve been collecting spiders since I was about 15 or 16 so I’d like to think I know a bit about captive care and what to look for.”

Ray and Angela have between 100 and 150 spiders in their house, which they use to put on displays at local schools.

Mr Hale added: “One of the reasons we do all this is because we’re very aware that there is a genuine fear of tarantulas and spiders – and it’s an unfounded one.

“There are about 800 types of spider in Britain and not one of them is harmful.

“It’s a fear brought about by James Bond films and people fear what they don’t know.

“We’ve seen this fear reduce in recent years, when I started in the 70s the fear factor was much worse, but with more nature documentaries on the TV these days children are being educated at a younger age.

“Kids below the age of 10 don’t tend to have any fears, they are built into them after this age, usually by the irrational fears of their parents.

“But at the exhibition there were loads of kids there with their parents, which was great.

“We also had two dear old ladies well into their 80s who turned up after hearing us on the radio.”

The exhibition is celebrating its 30th birthday next year, so the team are planning their biggest and best show yet when they return to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.