The BTS Exhibition 2014 Review
The BTS Exhibition 2014: A New Beginning
Well what can I possibly say that hasn’t already been said? This year saw the BTS make a huge decision to move the Exhibition from its long time venue of Coseley School to the mighty Ricoh Arena in Coventry. First off all I would like to point out that this was by no means an easy decision. The school had served us well and we were sad to leave behind some great friends. It was a simple case of logistics. The school had become too small for us and after weighing up all the comments from last year (some of them very hurtful I would add) I had after twenty years decided to retire from the Exhibition’s organization and let a fresh pair of eyes and hands take it over. Mark Porter bravely steeped up to the plate. The search was on and after a lot of looking and driving around England we finally, with the assistance of our good friend Vanessa Carter of Pandora Events stumbled upon the Ricoh. I cannot empahsise enough just how big a part she played in this year’s event. Without her exceptional negotiating skills we would have been unable to afford the venue nor would we have been able to secure such great prices for the hotel, where many of you stayed. So a massive heartfelt thanks to this wonderful lady. With the venue secured we set about beginning the arduous task of organising what would be a make or break show for the BTS. If it failed the long-term effect on the club could have been devastating on the other hand if it was success it would ensure both the clubs future and the future of the exhibition. It was a huge gamble and one that I felt was too much to place on the shoulders of someone else. I was happy to take the blame if it went belly up but it would have been wholly unfair to allow Mark or anyone else to take this challenge on alone. That said I have every confidence that Mark Porter is more than capable of taking over this event and indeed we have already committed to work together on next years 30th Birthday Celebration Exhibition. Roll on 2015 we say.
And so we come to this year’s event. Well I don’t think anyone, including me, expected what we actually got. We arrived on site at 9.00am Saturday morning to find that the Ricoh staff had laid out the tables to my exact specifications and even covered each and every one with black tablecloths. It really did look the business. I cannot say how good it was not to have to carry and layout 140 tables. Even more exciting was the prospect of not having to put them away again at the end of the day. Those of you who have helped in this task over the years will know exactly what I mean. After a brief committee meeting we retired to the bar to set up for the evening BTS Night before party. Here again we were taking a chance. We normally meet in a pub and socialise with old and new friends. Would anyone turn up, would the room be suitable, what about music, beer, food. It all had to be organized. I have to admit my heart missed a beat when the Ricoh announced on the day that the room we were to use had been changed but as it happened the replacement was suitable in all ways if not a little large for us to expect to fill. Around 100 people turned up to the evening bash and those that did were greeted like old friends (many of them were just that). The food was excellent and the beer flowed, although at slightly higher prices than I would have liked but this has been addressed already for next year. The evening flew by and by midnight Angela and I retired to our room although some of the group then went onto the casino on site. My all night party days are over thankfully. After a good nights sleep awakened only by some late night revelers returning form the casino we arose early to do a radio interview.. (Note to self……next year don’t get a room near the Spidershop crew. LOL. Good on yer guy’s life is for living I say). The day went as follows.
5.30am: Radio interview for BBC Radio 5 Live. Although they got my name wrong…Ray Vale?? Sounds like a Garden Centre in Herford.
6.00am: The first in the queue arrived as always Chris assumed his rightful potion as numero uno. What a man. Every year he is first and we give him a yellow jacket and he works like a trooper for us
7.00am: Breakfast with the committee and a few of the guests some of which I have to admit did look a little green around the gills as they stood staring at their full English. With a hearty meal inside of us we made our way to the exhibition hall. Again, it was such a joy to simply walk 100 yards to the room rather than have to pack up the cars, check out of a hotel and drive to the venue?
8.00am: All hands on deck as the exhibitors started to arrive. The entrance to the hall was via a service lift that worked well with assistance of the Ricoh staff and the BTS guys on the door. Well that is until it broke down. I have to thank our American representative, Michael Jacobi for his sterling work on operating the lift so professionally although we did have to explain to him that an “elevator” is in fact a ”lift” in the UK. Despite this set back we quickly moved to using two other lifts and we returned to some normality. This was my first stress of the day and for a moment I had visions of disaster. Thanks to everyone who rallied around to get the exhibitors to their stands in good time. You know who you are.
9:00am: The queue was now starting to lengthen and was soon spiraling down the stairs (four flights) and across the main atrium of the Ricoh. What a magnificent sight.
10.30am: A quick check to see if all of the exhibitors were ready to go. (A couple of late arrivals but in the main all systems were go).
11.00am Myself and the BTS team assembled at the door and the task of getting you guys in began. I have worked the BTS Exhibition doors for over twenty years and can honestly say that this year was probably the most enjoyable of them all. Getting people in, meeting old friends, chatting to new ones and generally enjoying the atmosphere is what makes it for me. I cannot believe that the queue was now outside the arena. With the help of the Ricoh staff (Charlie et al.) we managed to get the visitors in quite quickly and the queue finally subsided at 12.45 with over 1300 people coming through in the first hour and half. Big thanks to all the door staff here. Angela, Shelley, Kim, Brandon, Stacy, Mark and Lee. We had moved to wristbands this year and this proved a huge success.
1.00pm: Relieved form the door I managed to get inside the event and start organising the lecture for Dr. Stuart Longhorn. His lecture on his travels to Honduras was well attended and well received. The competition was in full swing with Pete and Connie working their socks off to accommodate all of the entrants. This year we had a film crew on site and although at times they were a little overbearing with their requests to film, re-film and then film again, in the main their presence was welcomed. I did a couple of radio interviews live form the Ricoh and continued to run around like a wounded rhino for the next few hours solving minor problems that people always seem to have.
3.30pm: The competition winners were announced and once again filmed for posterity by the TV crew. Best in show this year went to Mike Dawkins with his Monocentropus balfouri , a fine spider indeed. Peter Lacey treated us all to his inimitable singing style again whilst collecting his trophy (thanks for that Pete…I am traumatised).
4.00pm: The exhibition started to wrap up and the exhibitors began the arduous task of packing their goods away and begin the journey home. This year exhibitors from Germany (3), France (3), Hungary (1), Scotland ( Ray Gabriel….well he is Scottish!) and a host of UK traders made the effort to exhibit and we thank them all. I didn’t get time to visit each and every exhibitor as I usually do as I was busy elsewhere dealing with something or other but I would personally like to thank you all for your support this year.
It was refreshing to hear such positive comments about the event this year. As I have always said what disappoints you disappoints us also as we are spider keepers ourselves. As anyone will tell you I am my own worst critic and I see my job as not only organising the best event of its kind but also to spot the negatives and ensure they don’t reoccur. We had some issues it is true. The queue was difficult to control in a fair way that allowed pushchairs to wait in line. The catering although of excellent quality in the main was not thought out with nowhere to relax. This was a result of both the Ricoh and us underestimating the numbers of visitors. There were some thefts at the show but once again we discussed this with the traders concerned and hopefully we will be more vigilant for next year. All this said these points have been addressed already and we will correct them. This was our first time at Coventry and it was a learning curve for all of us.
As is always the way getting people to go home after the event proves a challenge but this has become part of the day for us. I finally escorted our good friend Ray Gabriel from the premises at around 6.00pm and he was still dealing as I literally carried him to the door. The event was over. The staff moved in and within minutes the hall had been cleared , the floor hovered of the odd escaped cricket and no one would have ever know that we had just hosted Europe’s biggest invert exhibition. So what was there to buy…..I have no idea as I didn’t actually look at any stand again this year. I didn’t buy anything or indeed see anything.
In the words of Catherine Tate….”Am I bothered?”. Naw…. I ain’t bothered because this was the biggest and best BTS Exhibition ever and if you guys enjoyed it then that’s what does it for me.
All it remains to say is “Thanks to all of the BTS Committee for your support and hard work on the day.”
See you next year guys………bigger and better still.
Ray and Angela
BTS Exhibition Organisers