Despite the weather in Manchester over the weekend (wet and cold on Saturday, cold then wet on Sunday!) vibrant colours and a celebration-feel lifted our spirits in the city centre as the Chinese New Year Celebrations took hold in several places, from Exchange Square to Deansgate and China Town. I spent some time on both days (although the celebrations were actually a four day event with New Years Day being Saturday 28th January), trying to capture some of this ‘sense of occasion’ in sketches. From the costumes to the dancing and decorations, the colours and the crowds, it was a festival for the eyes and ears and a challenge for our sketching spirits!
We arrived in time for the Lion Dancing in Market Street and managed to perch on the steps, tucked away for a good view. I think I’ve changed my mind about so called good views! Even what you think is a good view (and will definitely not result in anyone standing in front of you, completely blocking the view) usually does! So a good view is not enough, you have to be prepared to look over, above, under etc!! Fortunately the combination of standing on steps and the fact that the lion was quite high off the ground when dancing gave me a view. Once the dancing was over, the crowds disperse more quickly than you would ever imagine!
Saturday was a very wet day as well as a very busy one. The Lanterns of the Terracotta Warriors were next on our list, sited magnificently (but without protection from the rain) on Exchange Square in front of Selfridges, a very vibrant, and statuesque temporary installation that everyone was fascinated by. Artist Xia Nan originally created them for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and they have been travelling the world. They consist of replica warriers modeled on the famous clay army which guards the tomb of the first emporer of China. We were fortunate to find seats upstairs in Costa on the edge of the Arndale and this gave us a near perfect view, away from crowds and the wet and with a nice warm cup of tea.! This lulled us into a false sense of security that wasn’t to be repeated on day 2!
Sunday was a drier day but also a somewhat cold one! First up for us and in many ways the main act of the show, was the Chinese New Year Dragon Parade ; arriving in Princess Street as it crosses Mosley Street near the Manchester Art Gallery we spotted another of our vantage points: a central island such that we had a view down Princess Street towards Albert Square. But as time went on, and the parade time was getting closer, more and more people crowded along the sides of the road and in front of us!, including numerous children being raised onto shoulders to see the parade. First up, the dignitary, including The Manchester Mayor, followed by the wonderful parade. The colours, the noise and the sinuous winding of the 175 foot dragon moving up Princess Street was a sight to behold (albeit intermittently!).
After a brief warm up in the Central Library Café, we headed over to China town and the ChinaTown Street Markets. Lots of stalls, lots of lanterns, lots of street acts going on and of course, lots of people! We found a great vantage point, looking up George Street , with the yellow and red of the stalls set as a great visual with the buildings in the background and lots of people milling around.
This time, we even had a wall to rest our watercolour paints. Such luxury!
And looking across to Princess Street and the ongoing celebrations, still more street entertainment in the extravaganza that is Manchester’s Chinese New Year.
Wishing you all a very Happy Chinese and Lunar New year, the Year of the Rooster.