FAMILIES and students braved the elements to take part in a neighbourhood’s Christmas community festival.

The event in Neville’s Cross, Durham, included a lantern parade, crafts and activities for children, a visit to see Father Christmas and dance and music performances by local groups.

It was organised by the area’s Neighbourhood Watch, with help from the Neville’s Cross Residents’ Association and Durham University’s Ustinov College, in Sheraton Park, with the help of grants from Big Lottery Fund and County Durham Community Foundation AAP fund.

Organiser Mandeep Smith said: “People turned up in their droves despite the strong wind and rain. We had people of all ages, nationalities and faith groups, in attendance. It was wonderful to see everyone enjoying the event or working together.

The Illuminated trail was half-a-mile long and was illuminated with 150 sets of fairy lights.

The Advent calendar featuring 24 windows created by the schools and community groups and each day a new festive window replaces the “number” window hung in Sheraton Park residential building was launched.

Mrs Smith said: “We had over 20 different nationalities of people volunteering. People really got behind the project and there is a strong desire to build bridges and enrich our community.”

There was a contribution from Glowmob and a visit from Elvis the reindeer, while county councillor Elizabeth Scott dressed as a Victorian choir singer and Cllr Liz Brown led the parade. Cllr Esther Ashby and Carol Reeves ran a stall for the children.

Durham Music Service (wind band and flute choir) and Johnston Brass Durham Johnston School’s Brass band provided live music, Neville’s Cross Community Choir led a candlelit carol sing-a-long.

Santa and he saw 200 children in one night, with 60 volunteers involved, including sixth form students from Durham Johnston School, parents from St Margaret’s and Nevilles Cross Primary School and many international students from Ustinov College.