CHRISTMAS will be a holiday on ice for people in Durham with the arrival of a temporary skating rink in the city centre.

The 300 square metre rink, hired from Austria, will be set up next to the Gala Theatre in Millennium Square from Thursday, November 14, to Sunday, January 5.

People of all ages will have the chance to skate, learn skating, watch professionals or have parties on ice.

And traders hope that it will draw people to the city and give an added boost to seasonal takings.

Yarm-based Aria Ice, which is staging the event, hopes 15,000 people will take to the ice, including 7,000 children from schools and youth groups.

"It will be a nice outdoor winter experience and will be quite spectacular,'' said Aria managing director Vince Eckerman.

"It's all about getting families to come along and you can enjoy yourself even if you don't skate.

"We want to attract more people to the city centre, give people an extra leisure opportunity and raise the profile of the Gala.''

The rink will be open from 9.45am to 8pm daily - apart from Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day - and there will be sessions for schools, general sessions and party packages.

Qualified coaching will be available and there will be disco music, lights and an outside bistro. Up to 100 people can use the rink at any one time.

The event is being funded by Durham City Council and Durham City Chamber of Trade.

Mr Eckerman said: "It shouldn't cost anything. With 15,000 people it should raise enough money to ensure its return next year.'' City centre manager Chris Rawlinson said: "It will be wonderful and will provide something really different for Durham this Christmas.

"The idea is it will be a mini-Rockefeller Centre and give the city a really Christmassy atmosphere. It seemed ideal to run it in conjunction with the Gala.''

Businesses are being urged to sponsor school and children's sessions and have Christmas parties on the rink.

Tickets for general skating sessions, cost £5 (concessions £4) and are going on sale at the theatre, The Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Mambo, both in Saddler Street, Taylor's Newsforce, North Road, Ebony, Elvet Bridge, Caf Continental and the Body Shop, both Silver Street, and Rock 'n' Amigos, Claypath.

For further information call Aria on (01642) 659955