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Organisers determined to run city’s Open Christmas in some form despite Covid-19

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 organisers of an event which gives hundreds of people in need Christmas dinner and companionship say they are determined coronavirus will not cancel their plans entirely.

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

Norwich Open Christmas is held at St Andrew’s Hall in the city centre every year, and feeds hundreds of people who would otherwise have nowhere else to go a hot Christmas dinner.

An army of dedicated volunteers serve roughly 500 Christmas meals, with cooking preparations beginning two days in advance.

But with uncertainty on the horizon and the potential of tighter social distancing rules being introduced in the coming months, organisers have had to consider the 2020 event’s future.

Chairperson Bill Ashton said the trustees were determined to see it continue in some form, though details of how that might happen were not yet clear.

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

“It’s very hard to decide anything for definite - the one thing you can decide is to do nothing, and that’s the one thing we’ve said we won’t do,” he said.

“We will endeavour to do something. It will of course be totally dependent on what we are allowed to do at the time. We have various scenarios and we are considering options.”

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He said having 500 people in St Andrew’s Hall would currently not be allowed, and that they were considering how else it could operate.

“We feel there is a need for the event and we will try and do something, but we are going to have to manage it very carefully to try and reach as many people as possible,” Mr Ashton said.

In a letter written to supporters on the charity’s website earlier this year, the trustees said they may have to change their offer, including exploring whether meals and gift bags could be delivered to people’s homes.

As well as serving its attendees lunch, the team also give people a two-day food bag and any clothes they need.

The charity works with Norwich Samaritans to collect goods in advance, and any left over are donated back to local charities.

The event has been running for 28 years, and started with considering fewer attendees.

But it has grown significantly since then, and has become a lifeline for many people during the festive season.


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