It’s 20 years since we last spent Christmas at home! Norwich Open Christmas event organisers Michael and Rosie Hope take a rare break

A husband and wife team who provide a festive dinner for hundreds of people who would otherwise be alone will enjoy their first Christmas day at home for more than 20 years.

Michael and Rosie Hope are the charitable couple behind the Norwich and Great Yarmouth Open Christmas events, where kind-hearted volunteers serve Christmas dinners and put on musical entertainment for elderly, homeless and lonely people across the borough.

But this year, after 22 years of organising the events at St Andrew's Hall in Norwich, and 17 years at the Marina Centre in Great Yarmouth, the couple, now in their 70s, are stepping back from the front line and handing responsibility over to their trusted team.

Mr Hope said: 'We haven't had a Christmas at home for 20-odd years so it will be nice. We are just taking a step back from being there on the day.

'Over the years we have learned a lot about premises and food supply. We were very uncertain about how many volunteers we would need at the start but we have so many now that we don't know what to do with them.

'There are so many people who like to come and help out over Christmas, which is good when you have to do things like transfer 60 elderly people into Yarmouth on Christmas day.'

The Open Christmas days started when Mrs Hope, a former drug counsellor, realised that many who came out of her programmes tended to go back to having problems during the Christmas week. She felt the most useful thing to do would be to give them something to do at Christmas.

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'It gives a day for people to get together out of their normal background,' said Mr Hope.

He added: 'I have had a fairly lucky life, I just felt that it would be nice to give something back –that's my main motivation.

'I have been rewarded by seeing people who may have otherwise been miserable at Christmas, not being so.'

Mr and Mrs Hope, of Thurton, near Loddon, are still in overall charge of the charity – which recently gained charity status –working in the background to ensure it continues.

Mr Hope thanked Bernard Matthews, who donate dozens of turkeys each year and the Buckingham Emergency Food Appeal based near North Walsham, for their consistent support throughout the years.

The Norwich event is run by Colin and Linda Harper with the Yarmouth one by Joan Naylor.

'They are doing very well, I am very confident about their ability to run it,' said Mr Hope.

The contact number for the Norwich Open Christmas team is 01603 624877 and for Yarmouth is 01493 733153.

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