THE ‘Rat Pack’ took over a city centre as Chinese New Year celebrations reached full swing today.

Concern over the ongoing coronavirus were briefly forgotten as the onset of the Year of the Rat was marked with a traditional lion dance through the streets of Durham.

Pupils from four local primary schools joined members of the Oceans Apart Kung Fu club performing the colourful spectacle, said to bring prosperity and good fortune for the coming year.

It featured another ritual, the eating of a ceremonial lettuce by the lion, which then spits it out to onlookers who attempt to catch the leaves as another sign of good luck.

Durham’s Mayor, Katie Corrigan, took part in the initial display, in Millennium Place, in Walkergate, flanked by her consort, Dr Bill Moir, and guest Yingjie Fan, the Deputy Consul General at the Chinese consulate in Manchester.

Dr Moir said he hoped councillor Corrigan’s failure to catch the jettisoned lettuce at the first attempt will not be a portent for ill-fortune in the coming year.

The procession then moved on to the Prince Bishops shopping centre, Elvet Bridge, Framwelgate Bridge, River Walk parade and the Market Place, ending back at Clayport Library in Walkergate.

During the day there were a range of Chinese cultural activities taking place in the Town Hall, including a traditional tea ceremony, craft and calligraphy sessions, plus horoscope readings.

Traditional Chinese music, songs and dances, as well as a fashion show, were staged by members of the Chinese Students’ and Scholars’ Association (CSSA).

Clayport Library hosted language taster sessions and storytelling, while children could also create Chinese-themed arts and crafts to take home.

The events were backed by Durham County Council, Durham Chinese School, Durham Markets, Durham University and the CSSA.

Children from Bearpark, Langley Moor, Shincliffe, St Margaret’s and St Oswald’s primary schools all took part in the lion dance parade.