Festive spirit at Norwich Open Christmas

More than 400 guests and scores of volunteers enjoyed a bustling Christmas dinner at Norwich's annual event for the homeless and lonely.

The 19th Norwich Open Christmas was held at St Andrew's Hall on December 25 and welcomed people from all walks of life to partake in some festive food and enjoyable entertainment.

Some guests are homeless or on the streets, some just dread being alone on Christmas Day following a bereavement, a marriage breakup or some other crisis in their life.

Others cannot visit relations for Christmas as they live far away, some are unwanted by their family, while some guests find that their usual support services are closed.

Joyce Hulks, 83, from near Plumstead Road East, Norwich, decided to come because her son was going away over Christmas, and while she could have gone too, she did not want to leave her friend George Edmunds, 91, of Paston Way, Thorpe St Andrew, on his own.

She said: 'The food was excellent and we've enjoyed having a bit of a chat. It was a lovely idea to come here.'

Bernard Matthews Farms provided the 22 turkeys, and much of the food was prepared in advance at City College Norwich's hotel school on Christmas Eve under the supervision of one of the senior lecturers.

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About 30 to 35 volunteers pitch in on Christmas Eve, peeling and preparing vegetables, and the whole event can only go ahead because of the 160-odd volunteers who help throughout.

This includes drivers, who help to ferry the guests to and from the hall, and there is an emphasis on having enough volunteers to be able to take the time to sit down and talk to guests on the day.

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