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Norwich opens its arms to those in need at beloved Christmas Day lunch

PUBLISHED: 15:21 25 December 2017 | UPDATED: 15:26 25 December 2017

Norwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

The Christmas spirit was alive and well in Norwich as communities opened their arms to those in need.

Norwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYNorwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The Norwich Open Christmas meal saw hundreds of people cram into St Andrew’s Hall in the city centre for the popular event, which has grown sixfold over the last 26 years.

The event offers company and a warm meal for both diners and volunteers who may be in need.

Linda Harper, who has been organising the event with husband Colin for 18 years, said they had seen a “tremendous increase” in demand - with numbers of both volunteers and guests steadily rising.

“When Open Christmas started 26 years ago, there was an average of 80 guests and 20 volunteers,” she said. “We then rose to 200, 300, 400 over five years... We expect this year to be the same as last year and to have 500 guests today.”

Norwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYNorwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

MORE: ‘A true Christian act’ - 16 people enjoy Christmas meal in Elsing thanks to kind-hearted mum and daughter

Norwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYNorwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The event sees food bags and warm clothing given to those in need.

Norwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYNorwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

“The guests come from many and varied backgrounds,” she said. “Some are homeless, some are sofa-surfers. We have those who would otherwise spend Christmas alone and come for the company.

“Some may have been recently released from prison or discharged from hospital, and may need a little bit of help and again it’s the company they come for.”

Norwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYNorwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

And she said many of its volunteers - 260 helped put on this year’s event - often had “very personal reasons” for wanting to help out.

The event’s visitors included David Fullman, Lord Mayor of Norwich, and Sheriff of Norwich David Walker.

Norwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYNorwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The pair welcomed visitors to the lunch and spent a portion of the day volunteering.

Across the city centre, the Salvation Army also held a Christmas meal, with quizzes and games organised after to keep celebrations running throughout the afternoon.

Norwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall. The Lord Mayor of Norwich David Fullman.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYNorwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall. The Lord Mayor of Norwich David Fullman. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

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