'I love the atmosphere and food' - Open Christmas dinner event welcomes hundreds
PUBLISHED: 14:12 25 December 2019 | UPDATED: 14:12 25 December 2019
A family who couldn't afford Christmas and people suffering from loneliness were among 550 guests at Norwich Open's Christmas day event.
For the past 28 years those in need have been entertained and dined during a Christmas Day meal at St Andrew's Hall in St Georges Street.
The event offers a hot meal, carols from Norwich Cathedral choir, sleeping bags, clothes and a food bag for those who need it the most.
This is the first year Kerrie Fox and her husband Mark have organised the event and they have noticed a rise in guests who rely on foodbanks over the years.
Mrs Fox said: "There are fewer homeless people who come and more families who can't always afford to eat. The expectation on Christmas Day is now so high, and that means that it becomes very expensive, especially if you have children."
Sarah Bond, 38, from Beccles is from one of those families and has been to the event six times.
She came with her two children Max, 10, and Lilly, 9, due to the rising cost of Christmas dinner, saying a large turkey is unaffordable for three people.
She said: "The cost is just a bit much and we don't have a lot. The children don't get much and when we come here we are treated so well. I always feel so much better afterwards.
"Christmas can also be really isolating but at this meal I have always ended up bonding with people."
A 50-year-old from Norwich said he came to the meal as it was his first Christmas alone and he wanted company.
He said: "I split up with my partner last December and I wouldn't cope on my own this year. The thought is depressing. I'm a very social person and Christmas for me is about gathering around people and trying to make new friends."
Edward Yan, 65 from Norwich, also lives on his own and said he came to meet people.
He added: "This is the third year I have been and I always end up talking to interesting people. I love the atmosphere and the nice food."
His sentiment was echoed by 48-year-old carer, Darren Larkins, who has recently returned to Norwich after a spell away.
He said: "I am here to make new friends as I am new to the city again. Christmas is the time for giving and helping people."