The first of Chester's Winter Watch parades was a feast of entertainment as angels, devils, skeletons, dragons and Victorian cooks with meat cleavers made themselves known to city shoppers last night (December 4).

Artistic director Russell Kirk was a fire-breathing master of ceremonies as he and the Karamba Samba band led the popular annual parade from the Forum Shopping Centre, through the Christmas Market, past Chester Cathedral onto St Werburgh Street, up Eastgate Street, down Bridge Street, back past the cross and up Northgate Street.

Russell said: "There were a lot of new people involved this was great and there was a lovely atmosphere."

A new addition to the parade was an elaborate puppet of Gaia, the Greek goddess of the Earth, created to match the Midsummer Watch's Celtic god of the forest Cernunnos, and a reincarnation of winter's own Jack Frost.

Other favourites were Envy, with snakes in her hair and a snake in her hand, Plenty, garlanded with wheat ears around her body, Fame with a trumpet, followed by Peace, Joy, Rumour and a winged Mercury.

Russell added: "There was also a reenactment of the handing over of the keys in Eastgate, following the ancient tradition."

‘Setting the Watch’ comes from the 1400s, as the city leaders handed over the keys of Chester to the City Watch – the early police force – after walking around the city to ensure it was secure. There then followed a banquet and celebration of Christmas, knowing the city was safe.

The next Winter Watch parade is on Thursday, December 11, which will include a troop of Vikings.