A GREAT Paxton man will be helping to ssssssselebrate the arrival of the Chinese Year of the Snake by hosting the London celebrations ... in front of 100,000 people.

A GREAT Paxton man will be helping to ssssssselebrate the arrival of the Chinese Year of the Snake by hosting the London celebrations ... in front of 100,000 people.

And he will be doing it in Mandarin and English.

Richard Heathcote said he was approached by the London Chinatown Chinese Association to host the extravaganza in Trafalgar Square on Sunday – one of the biggest Chinese new year celebrations outside of Asia.

The 24-year-old linguist, who studied Chinese at Sheffield University and lived in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing for a year in 2007, landed a job as an actor on a Chinese sitcom when he returned to the UK.

He plays the lead role in the show Gebi Laowai, which translates as Foreigner Next Door and is broadcast in both the UK and China.

He met the festival organisers during filming and was asked to host the London celebrations.

“I studied French and German at A-level but they didn't really click for me so I decided to do something else,” he said.

“It was before Chinese really started emerging as a useful language to have so I just got lucky in studying it.”

Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and China Town have been hosting new year celebrations since the 1980s but this year, Richard said, the organisers have pulled out all the stops.

“They've really taken it up a level,” he said. “It begins in the morning with a parade through the West End to Trafalgar Square.

“There's an opening celebration after that with over 100 stage performances and special guests such as Hong Kong-born singer-songwriter Emmy the Great, and Britain's Got Talent winner Paul Potts.

“There's a second stage on Shaftesbury Avenue with performances from community groups and schools and the celebrations really take off in Chinatown after that.”

Richard, who is waiting to hear if his television show has been recommissioned, will host the stage in Trafalgar Square for the whole day – an eight-hour show which runs from 10am.

Festival director Lawrence Cheng said. “Chinese new year is the most important festival for the worldwide Chinese community.

“It's been celebrated for thousands of years but nowadays it is welcomed by over a sixth of the world's population. It's wonderful to witness the celebration of Chinese culture in London.”

Richard said: “I can't wait to get out there. Being on stage always gives me a real buzz but the sheer size of the audience and the prospect of sharing the stage with some incredible performers makes it all the more exciting.”