Photo gallery: The true festive spirit on show as Norwich Open Christmas feeds the 400

The Open Christmas Dinner at St Andrew's Hall. Left, Geoffrey Brookes. Second left, Timothy Dempsey.

The Open Christmas Dinner at St Andrew's Hall. Left, Geoffrey Brookes. Second left, Timothy Dempsey. Picture by: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

For those who are on their own, or have no home, Christmas Day can be a poignant and unhappy occasion.

The Open Christmas Dinner at St Andrew's Hall. David Hannant with Kira and Charlie. Picture by: Sony

The Open Christmas Dinner at St Andrew's Hall. David Hannant with Kira and Charlie. Picture by: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

But, thanks to a small army of volunteers, up to 400 people today enjoyed a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings, as well as crackers, entertainment and, most importantly, the warmth and friendship of others.

Norwich Open Christmas, now in its 23rd year, served dinner at St Andrew's Hall at 12.30pm, but the event had been days in the making, with about 200 people collecting donations, preparing the venue, transporting guests, and cooking and serving, with the clear up not expected to finally finish until Monday.

Geoffrey Brookes, 82, from Trowse, has been coming for six years since the death of his wife, and said he enjoyed the entertainment and meeting friends.

Timothy Dempsey, moved to Norwich from Cheshire 34 years ago, and has been to Open Christmas about 14 times, although not for the last two years.

The Open Christmas Dinner at St Andrew's Hall. Colin and Linda Harper. Picture by: Sonya Duncan

The Open Christmas Dinner at St Andrew's Hall. Colin and Linda Harper. Picture by: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan


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The 62-year-old said: 'I always know a lot of people here. It's good company. I have come mainly for the community. Everyone is friendly and some of the people I have known for a long time.

'Otherwise I would have stayed at home alone, so I think I made the right decision coming here.'

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Like other guests, he could not praise the volunteers enough. He said: 'I think they are doing a great job. They are sacrificing their own Christmas to help other people, so I think it's pretty marvellous, really.'

Jean Seeley, 72, from Thorpe St Andrew, said she lives alone, and came with a friend so that she could meet people. By chance, she sat next to a familiar face, Carole Schiller and her daughter Helen, who she had met at last year's event.

The Open Christmas Dinner at St Andrew's Hall. Glenn Shepherd, right. Picture by: Sonya Duncan

The Open Christmas Dinner at St Andrew's Hall. Glenn Shepherd, right. Picture by: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

She said she especially enjoyed the carols and entertainment.

One of the first-time volunteers was Andy Coates, 58, a delivery driver, who spent much of the day preparing the bags that every guest leaves with, full of soup, beans, potatoes, vegetables, pasta, sweets, fruit, rice pudding and a mince pie.

The Blofield resident said: 'I went to see my mum the other day and when I said about this, she said 'Go for it, I would be very pleased if you did it'.'

He said he would definitely volunteer again next year.

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