“I DIDN’T know there were so many Chinese people in Andover” was a common phrase heard at the community’s first ever event on Sunday.

The Chinese community in the town celebrated the Year of the Pig at the Golden Dragon restaurant, in High Street, in a bid to take first steps in building a support network for the group in Andover.

From long-standing Chinese Andoverian Ronnie Hoo’s idea and funding from Test Valley Borough Council, the jolly event was hailed a success in bringing people together.

Around 60 people joined in the celebrations and a Chinese buffet.

Ronnie said: “I’m pleased, this is the most Chinese people I have seen in Andover in one place.

“We’re trying to get a group together so they [Chinese community] can help each other, because they can be so isolated, like to keep themselves to themselves and people can get lonely.”

A wooden pig stood centre stage of a table, made by Men’s Shed volunteers, for guests to write sticky notes on of what they would like to see in the town and for the community.

Guest Amy Bacon said she had met new people during the afternoon occasion and she was “so happy” the group was able to meet up.

Jerry Zhang, from Tycoon restaurant, said: “It’s Chinese New Year celebration. We know each other for a long time but it’s a good chance for us to get together, normally everybody is busy so it’s really good.”

Funding for the event came from Millway ward councillors, backed by Councillor Sandra Hawke, and as part of Andover Vision to invite the Chinese community to get more involved in the town.

Cllr Hawke said: “It has been amazing, so many guests have said how great it is, it’s the first time anything like this has been held for the Chinese community in Andover, and what a great success it has been, particularly to see some young people here.”

Test Valley mayor Councillor Ian Carr and mayoress Beryl Carr also enjoyed the festivities, and Test Valley community engagement officer Mandie Taylor told the guests resources were being looked at to put on English classes for adults and Mandarin lessons for children to boost communication and break down barriers.

The established Chinese community also has ambition for members to help each other with language and communication issues such as at doctor or dentist appointments, Home Office and immigration issues, citizenship as well as trips to the seaside and social outings.

Guests were also encouraged to attend Andover Vision’s next meeting at the Methodist Church which was held on Tuesday.

Ronnie, who has lived in Andover since 1980, added: “I hope we can all make friends and other things. I want the community to help each otherwise you will be lost living in a foreign country, but it is your town now, so make it good.”