This coming weekend sees the start of a massive 15-day celebration to welcome the Chinese New Year and the Year of the Snake. The celebration, starting on February10th, will be the biggest ever staged in Northern Ireland.
The celebrations officially begin at a huge family event, hosted by the Chinese Welfare Association NI, in partnership with NI Chinese Chamber of Commerce, at the Ulster Hall, Belfast on Sunday February 10th. More than 2,500 people are expected to join in the festivities, which will feature traditional Chinese performers, including musicians, acrobats and dancers. There also will be food and crafts stalls, martial arts displays, a fashion show of Chinese fusion new designs by Belfast Metropolitan College and a special children’s competition.
The City Hall is also playing a central role in this year’s celebrations, with the grounds decorated with traditional Chinese red lanterns, and various exhibitions within the building itself. Titanic Belfast also will be playing its part, with both the building and the skies above it being turned red – the Chinese colour for good luck – over the weekend of February 9th – 11th.
Announcing details of the 15-day programme of events, the Lord Mayor said:
“The Chinese community in Northern Ireland is one of our biggest and longest established minority communities. Having arrived in Belfast in the 1960s, the Chinese community has played a vital role in contributing not only to the economic but also social regeneration of this city. The strong work ethic and diversity of talent within the Chinese community has added to the creativity of this city and has exposed the city to opportunities and markets in other parts of the world.
“At a civic level, Belfast City Council has been engaged with China since the late 1990s, through a sister city relationship with the city of Hefei in the Province of Anhui. This relationship was formed as part of the Council’s international linkages aimed at developing business and civic relationships with this Chinese city. More recently, through the council’s Investment Programme, launched in February 2012, we have committed to develop an International Strategy, within which China relations will be a key target: through this, we aim to support and build the relationships which both the council and other partners in the city have with key locations of strategic importance throughout the world.”
On Monday February 11th, the NI Chinese Chamber of Commerce will mark their 30th anniversary with their annual New Year gala dinner in the Europa Hotel. There will be similar events in Armagh and Craigavon.
On Wednesday February 13th, Invest Northern Ireland, in partnership with Belfast Metropolitan College and the Chinese Welfare Association, will host an economic trade conference on the theme of ’Working with China’.
Dr Vicky Kell, Invest NI Director of Trade, said:
“China is the second largest economy in the world, meaning there are great export opportunities for Northern Ireland businesses. A number of our local companies are already selling their products and services to China, but there is huge potential for many more to do so. This conference will provide businesses with a better understanding of the market and the opportunities available, and also of the cultural aspects of doing business with China.”
Belfast Metropolitan College also will be hosting a Chinese ‘Masterchef’ competition on Thursday February 14th. Marie-Therese McGivern, Chief Executive of BMC, commented:
“Belfast Met is delighted to support this programme of events to celebrate Chinese New Year. It is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the contribution of the Chinese community to the cultural and economic life of Belfast City.
“It is also essential that as we reach out to China to develop the enormous potential of partnerships with this economic powerhouse that we look to and learn from our relationships with the Chinese community here in Northern Ireland.”
The last major event to be held in Belfast will be a cookery demonstration at St George’s market on Saturday February 16th. There will be other events across Northern Ireland, including in Newry on February 16th, Carrickfergus on February 23rd and Londonderry on February 24th.
Danny Wong MBE, Chairperson of both NI Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Chinese Welfare Association concluded:
“I wish everyone all a very happy Year of the Snake, a year of success beyond all challenges. I am proud to see the enthusiasm and support to the Chinese community by celebrating together and recognising our contribution to the community as a whole. I thank all those involved across Northern Ireland to welcome us by having Chinese New Year celebrations everywhere.”
For details of all events being held to mark the Year Of The Snake, visit www.cwa-ni.org or Chinese Welfare Nireland on Facebook, or call 028 9028 8277.