“It's like Hogwarts” - hundreds served Christmas dinner in Minster 

25th December 2019
Liz Coates, Great Yarmouth Mercury, reports

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Sharon Lyne, 35, and her three-year-old son Stuart enjoy opening presents at Great Yarmouth's Open Christmas on Christmas Day Picture: Liz Coates

Christmas dinner has been served to over 150 people who would otherwise struggle to find comfort and companionship
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The Great Yarmouth Minster has been hailed as an atmospheric setting for the Open Christmas event in the town Picture: Liz Coates

Great Yarmouth's Minster was the venue for the mammoth festive event, usually staged in the seafront Marina Centre which has now shut

Organiser Belinda Roll said around 150 people had been served by around 2pm with more coming in all the time.  Among them were Sharon Lyne, 35, and her three-year-old son Stuart who live on St Peter's Road.  The pair were happy to mix with other people on the special day and Ms Lyne hailed both the food and the venue as "fantastic"

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Karen and Phillip Lovejoy enjoying the camaraderie and meeting new friends at Yarmouth's Open Christmas Picture: Liz Coates

She said if it wasn't for Open Christmas she would probably be "at home, upset" but as it was she had had a lovely day and Stuart had been thrilled to receive three super, wrapped gifts he loved.  "Places like this are really good for the town" she said. "It gives people a chance to come together"

Also enjoying the festivities and making new friends were Karen and Phillip Lovejoy.  Mrs Lovejoy, 58, said she started attending Open Christmas with her sons when they were both homeless.  Now that they had found their feet she and her husband still enjoyed the event and helping other people to make the best of it.  She said isolation and loneliness took many different forms and for some homeless people it was one of the few times they could be acknowledged as a person.  "The staff is brilliant, they are all volunteers and the people are all friendly" she said.  "I do not like seeing people sitting on their own so I collect them and now they are chatting with our table"
Rev Canon Simon Ward said he was delighted to see the Minster spilling over with festive joy.  "This building is for everybody, it belongs to the town" he said
"A lot of people have said what a lovely place it is to have their lunch.
"It is a rather grand setting surrounded by these sweeping medieval windows. It has got a real bit of character"
One of the volunteers, referring to the atmospheric grandeur and busy babble of conversation said it was "like Hogwarts" - the school of magic in Harry Potter where students sit at long dining tables