Looking ahead to the Chinese New Year

UCLan students and members of the Confucius Institute rehearse the Chinese lion dance for the New Year celebrations

UCLan students and members of the Confucius Institute rehearse the Chinese lion dance for the New Year celebrations

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Lancashire will be going cockahoop over Chinese New Year.

The Year of the Rooster begins on Saturday January 28 and lasts until February 15, 2018.

Lifang Dong and Wenxuan Li with Ethan Davies (centre)

Lifang Dong and Wenxuan Li with Ethan Davies (centre)

Preston especially has a large Chinese community and is hosting a series of colourful and fun events to mark the new year.

At the centre of the activities is The UCLan Confucius Institute which is a partnership between UCLan, Beijing International Studies University, and Hanban.

On Saturday February 4, a Chinese dragon will be parading between the Harris Museum and Flag Market as a series of workshops and activities take place between the two venues from 10am.

Coming all the way from China, Guangzhou Art Troupe will perform a Chinese New Year celebration show of Chinese puppetry, music and song at 53 Degrees, Preston, on Wednesday February 8.

UCLan students and members of the Confucius Institute rehearse the Chinese lion dance for the New Year celebrations

UCLan students and members of the Confucius Institute rehearse the Chinese lion dance for the New Year celebrations

The show starts at 12.30pm.

Tickets are between £4 and £7. To book call 01772 894246.

Feixia Yu, director of UCLan Confucius Institute, said: “Over the last eight or nine years I have been very active in promoting the Chinese culture.

“It is not just for the Chinese community, but also for the people of Preston. We want to bring everyone together and it is all very visual. People do go to Manchester and Liverpool to celebrate but there is a lot happening locally so people will stay here.

UCLan students and members of the Confucius Institute rehearse the Chinese lion dance for the New Year celebrations

UCLan students and members of the Confucius Institute rehearse the Chinese lion dance for the New Year celebrations

“We have hundreds of Chinese students at UCLan and the community is growing. A lot of Chinese people are settling here and have professional jobs.

“Preston is a very pleasant city to live in. People are very friendly.

“They do contribute to the Chinese economy. We want to make Preston a more open place and make Chinese people feel more welcome.

“The best way to do that is to join the Chinese community to celebrate their religious festival.”

Quong Tran.

Quong Tran.

It is clear that Feixia’s efforts to get people together for the cross-cultural occasion are working.

Many of the university students who are performing the traditional lion dance for the New Year celebrations come from distant lands including Vietnam and Jamaica.

André Forrester, for instance, is from Jamaica and is studying geography at UCLan.

He said he has gained a lot from his time rehearsing for the performance.

“It’s just been a really good experience. I love the reaction you get from people when you’re performing, the expressions on the faces of the little kids are especially good. I just hope we don’t scare any.”

The 22-year-old said the hardest thing about taking part in the lion dance is the physicality of it: “The strain its puts on your muscles is ridiculous.”

UCLan students and members of the Confucius Institute rehearse the Chinese lion dance for the New Year celebrations

UCLan students and members of the Confucius Institute rehearse the Chinese lion dance for the New Year celebrations

André hopes to go to China on a cultural visit with the university next year.

“I’ve got Chinese friends so I’ve always celebrated Chinese New Year.

“I like the multi-cultural nature of Preston, you get exposed to loads of different cultures, there’s a great community here, its brilliant.”

Ethan Davies, 20, is doing a foundation degree in biomedical sciences. He’s from closer to home in Burnley and says the Chinese culture is “amazing.”

He is part of Kung Fu club at UCLan, Hung Kuen, from which all the puppeteers were chosen to perform the lion dance.

He said: “I like how its a different animal every year. I’d love to go to China for the celebrations to experience it at New Year.”

Victoria Priest, 20, has spent much of her life in France, and is holding the dragon’s head in the dance performance. She said: “Holding the head is really hard, my arms really hurt but the martial arts training has really helped. Its been a fantastic experience.”

The first year forensic science student is hoping to go to Beijing in May this year on a university trip.

Master Tran Quang is the Kung Fu teacher and will be beating the drum for the dancers during the lion dance to keep them in time.

He said the martial arts sessions teach the students manners and discipline as well as exercise. He is also the man behind the choreography for the lion dance.

Other events:

Lancaster Chinese Arts Festival takes place across the city from February 1 to 15. It includes the New Year Carnival on Sunday February 5 and a performance of MONKEY! by Puppetcraft at Preston Harris Library on Friday February 3, from 6pm until 7.30pm.

The production follows the adventures of a comical, fantastical superhero, inspired by Journey to the West - a classic of Chinese literature.

It features marionettes and old Chinese shadow puppets, as well as live music and witty words written by award winning poet Michael Rosen. Buy tickets online at http://www.chineseartsfestival.co.uk.

On Saturday January 28 Chinese chefs Zhao Guang You and Lu Yao will be preparing and cooking food at Northcote, in Langho, as part of its Obsession festival.

Diners are asked to attend at 7.30pm for 8pm start, with a Louis Roederer Brut Premier and canape reception and five-course signature menu.

£130 per person.

To book call 01254 240 555.

There will be special activities and celebrations at Market Place, in Wigan, on Saturday January 28, from noon. This includes traditional Chinese dragon dances, with a number of craft making stations available for the whole family. There’s also plenty going on at the Museum of Wigan Life between 11am and 3pm, with music, dancing, costumes, crafts and a special finale later in the afternoon.

Johnng Hoang and Fred Eastham with Andre Forrester and Victoria Priest

Johnng Hoang and Fred Eastham with Andre Forrester and Victoria Priest