Galashiels celebration to mark the start of Chinese New Year

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as local Chinese families prepare to celebrate Chinese New Year, their fellow Borders residents are being invited to a special celebration to mark the occasion, complete with a world-famous lion dance troupe, writes Mark Entwistle.

The Dragon Festival – to mark the dawning of the Year of the Rabbit, which officially starts on February 3 – will take place this Sunday in Channel Street in Galashiels.

Organised by the Borders Chinese Cultural Association, this will be the fourth such annual event of its kind. Last year’s festival was staged indoors at the town’s Volunteer Hall.

But, as association chairman Steve Kwan explained, the growing popularity of the event meant many visitors had to be turned away from the Volunteer Hall on health-and-safety grounds.

“Last year we staged the event indoors because of the weather, but so many people wanted to get into the Volunteer Hall we had to close the doors for safety reasons,” Mr Kwan told TheSouthern this week.

“It also ran on for too long last year – it lasted over two hours. To be honest what people want to see is always the lion dance.

“So this year we are staging the festival in Channel Street so everyone who wants to see it can. It will be a bit of a gamble again because of the weather, but, touch wood, it will be fine.

“There is a great turnout every time we have staged the festival and hopefully it will be the same this year. When it is staged outdoors it also helps more of the local traders by attracting additional people into the town and that was one of the original aims anyway.”

The lion dance will be performed by the renowned Glasgow Hong Lok Troupe in Channel Street at 12pm, showcasing traditional Chinese acrobatics and music.

And to help promote the event, as in previous years, a schools’ poster competition was held which attracted a staggering 280 entries from 13 local schools and these are now on display on the walls of the Beijing Beijing restaurant in Galashiels which also sponsors the festival.

“Each year I am overwhelmed by how many youngsters enter the poster competition,” added Mr Kwan. “It was a very dificult job choosing a winner this year, but the judges went for a very colourful and inventive design.” That winning creation, featuring a rabbit and carrot, came from Jake Thompson, who attends primary six at St Margaret’s RC Primary School in Galashiels.

Second prize went to Charlotte Dalgleish, another primary six pupil, this time from St Boswells Primary School, while third was Ellie Hislop, from primary seven at St Joseph’s RC Primary School, in Selkirk. Highly commended in this section was Chloe Frizzel, of Kirkhope Primary School, Ettrickbridge, while in the younger section the winner was Emma Brown, of primary three at Hobkirk Primary School.

Councillor John Mitchell, who was one of the judges, commented: “As in previous years, there were a lot of excellent and imaginative entries and I am sure the children enjoyed participating in the competition.”

Councillor Mitchell will officially signal the start of the lion dance on Sunday and has publicly praised Mr Kwan and his helpers for bringing Chinese traditional culture to Galashiels town centre.