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Great Yarmouth Minster will be venue for Open Christmas event for homeless and vulnerable this year

THE GREAT Yarmouth Open Christmas event, for homeless and vulnerable people in the borough, will be held at the Great Yarmouth Minster this year - thanks to partnership working between the borough council and community organisations.

Great Yarmouth minster

The long-standing Christmas Day event, which is wholly run by volunteers with the help of donations, provides a free Christmas meal and festive cheer for people who would otherwise be on their own or have to go without on December 25. 

With the closure of the Marina Centre, which historically has hosted the event in its sports hall, Great Yarmouth Borough Council organised and participated in discussions between the Open Christmas volunteers and representatives of both the Minster and Great Yarmouth Community Trust, which runs the Priory Centre next door.

As a result, the Open Christmas volunteers will cook the meals in the kitchen at the Priory Centre* and host the event in the northern aisle of the Minster. The council is supplying equipment including chairs and tables, and Town Hall porter Roger Smith is kindly volunteering his services, also free of charge. 

The drop-in event will take place between 11.30am and 3pm, with Christmas lunch served for about 400 people between 12.30pm and 2pm, followed by the distribution of food parcels for guests to take home. Church services will continue as normal.

Cllr Michael Jeal, the mayor, said: "I am so pleased that, through partnership working, we have been able to make this happen with the dedicated Open Christmas volunteers, who provide such a valuable service on Christmas Day itself for vulnerable people in our communities.

"Like many mayors before me, I look forward to visiting on the day, thanking the volunteers in person and meeting their guests. I would also like to recognise the crucial support of the council staff, The Rev Canon Simon Ward, the Parochial Church Council and Great Yarmouth Community Trust."

Belinda Roll, secretary of Great Yarmouth Open Christmas, said: "We are delighted to be hosting this year's event at the stunning Great Yarmouth Minster and are very grateful to all involved at the borough council, the Minster and the Priory Centre who helped to make this happen.  

"Now that the venue is secured, it is all systems go to get everything in place. As usual, we are appealing to the public and local businesses for donations of money and goods to help us deliver a festive treat to our guests.

"We will put a list on our website of the things we need, such as 400 Christmas crackers.  Smaller donations of toiletries, hats, gloves, scarves, socks and non-perishable food and drinks (no alcohol or glass bottles) are needed for the goodie bags and raffle prizes. These can be dropped off at the Town Hall or the Minster from Monday, October 28.

"The timing of the event is different this year so we have changed the schedule of the day and this year there will be no jumble.

"In the past we have had an abundance of volunteers to help and we hope this year will be no different. It is important that all prospective volunteers please register on our website as we need to monitor how many will be available for each time slot.

"As we will be setting up on Christmas Day, a bit later than usual, we need to do more tasks on Christmas Eve so we are appealing for volunteers then and on our 'clear-up' day on December 27 in addition to Christmas Day. The volunteer registration form and list of items needed will be available on our website from November."

The Rev Canon Simon Ward, of Great Yarmouth Minster, said: "We are very pleased to be entering this new partnership with Open Christmas. The Minster is a place for everyone. Therefore it feels like the most natural thing for our doors to be wide open for all on Christmas Day and we very much look forward to making everyone welcome and sharing the spirit of Christmas."

Andrew Forrest, executive director of Great Yarmouth Community Trust, said: "We're excited to be joining with Great Yarmouth Open Christmas, the Minster and the borough council to secure this crucial event for so many people on Christmas Day."

For more information, to register to volunteer or to donate, please visit

* Update 29/11/2019: Following the sudden closure of the Priory Centre, the nearby St Nicolas Priory Primary School is kindly making their kitchens available for the Open Door volunteers to prepare the meals.

Last modified on 10 September 2020

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