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Yarmouth charity struggles to find venue for Christmas dinner

PUBLISHED: 12:44 31 July 2019 | UPDATED: 13:25 31 July 2019

Open Christmas in Great Yarmouth on Christmas Day 2018. Picture: Belinda Roll

Open Christmas in Great Yarmouth on Christmas Day 2018. Picture: Belinda Roll

Belinda Roll

A Great Yarmouth charity is struggling to find a venue for its traditional Christmas Day event.

Open Christmas in Great Yarmouth on Christmas Day 2018. Picture: Belinda RollOpen Christmas in Great Yarmouth on Christmas Day 2018. Picture: Belinda Roll

The planned closure of the Marina Centre this October means that Open Christmas has not yet found a host for its festive meal for those on their own, homeless or struggling to make ends meet.

The annual event has run for 21 years and traditionally been held at the Marina Centre on the Golden Mile - but the facility will be demolished later this year.

The charity had lined up a replacement venue but that has fallen through.

It needs seating for 350 people, a ground floor with wheelchair access, a production kitchen, parking, as well as access on Christmas Day and the days running up to the holiday.

Open Christmas in Great Yarmouth on Christmas Day 2018. Picture: Belinda RollOpen Christmas in Great Yarmouth on Christmas Day 2018. Picture: Belinda Roll

Carole Beck, chairperson of the charity, said: "You feel for the people who look forward to coming each year.

"They come year on year.

"It really is the highlight of their year.

"Sometimes they book in June or July," she said.

Despite the setback, Mrs Beck is hopeful the charity will find a new venue.

She also said any new arrangement would be temporary, as the Marina Centre's owners have said the charity is welcome to return after the centre is rebuilt.

"The Marina Centre was excellent for us," Mrs Beck said.

"But we're hopeful, onwards and upwards."

Compounding the challenges faced by the charity, two of its committee members have had to stand down on health grounds.

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It is hoping to recruit two replacement volunteers.

The event is funded entirely by donations from local businesses and individuals and has fed more than 6,000 people in need over the years.

Along with a free hot meal, guests enjoy live music, a goodie-bag of food, bingo, a raffle and free jumble sale.

At last year's party, Mick Rudy, 49, attended the event for the first time.

He said he was homeless on and off since he was 17 and would definitely be returning to the event this year.

If anyone knows of a venue in Great Yarmouth which would meet the charity's criteria, you can email them at openchristmas.greatyarmouth@yahoo.co.uk or call 07523 888729.

Visit their website www.openchristmasgreatyarmouth.org for more information.

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