A POIGNANT tribute to the life of a much-loved family man is taking place across Sharpness and Berkeley this Christmas.

People have turned their two communities into real-life Advent calendars by unveiling giant festive displays in their windows in memory of Gerry Bidder.

Twenty-four window displays are being lit up on consecutive evenings at different houses in the area, with money raised going to children’s bereavement charity Winston’s Wish.

It is the second year that Sharpness has held a nativity windows event, and it is the first time for Berkeley.

Sharpness grandmother Gail Bidder had the idea.

She wanted a way of getting through Christmas after the death of her husband, Gerry, in 2017.

“Last year, we lost Gerry,” she said. “He took his own life.”

Gail says Gerry was a wonderful person, but he found it hard to recognise this.

“It’s very sad when people think they’re not a success,” she added.

“They forget they’re so successful at other things, like being a fantastic husband, dad and grandad, and a friend and confidant to lots of people.

“They don’t recognise the positive effect they’ve had on other people.”

With Christmas approaching, Gail didn’t want to dwell on what had happened and thought the Advent project, an idea that had been on the back burner for seven years, would get her through.

“I thought ‘I really want something to concentrate on’, so I spoke to my friend Christy and we got the ball rolling together.”

Gail and her good friend Christy Harvey took to social media to ask if anyone would like to take part.

“We put the word out on Facebook, to see who was interested, and the slots filled up really, really quickly,” said Gail.

“The villagers have been fantastic, so supportive.

“Without them, I would never have been able to start to recover from what happened.

“Now we’ll have a beautifully decorated village, while raising money for a great cause at the same time.”

Last year’s Advent windows raised £507 for Winston’s Wish, and Gail hopes to raise more this year.

Winston’s Wish offers a wide range of practical support and guidance to bereaved children and their families.

“It’s a fantastic charity and they’ve been a big support to me and my family,” said Gail.

“It was tough to know how to explain to the grandchildren what had happened in a sensitive way, we didn’t know how to approach it. They helped us with that, and they helped the school too.

“This year we’ve broadened our horizons and challenged Berkeley to join us in our cause too. They’ve really got on board with it.

“I am again so humbled by everyone’s enthusiasm and loyalty to us as a family and how we all come together for a good cause.”

To donate visit: justgiving.com/fundraising/gail-bidder1

Every evening throughout Advent, one house lights up in Berkeley at 6pm, and then another in Sharpness at 6.30pm.

For further details of which houses will be lighting up and when, see the Sharpness and Berkeley nativity windows Facebook page.

If you, or anyone you know, needs support at this time, the following organisations provide help:

Winston's Wish, winstonswish.org, 08088 020 021 

CALM, thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858

Hector’s House, hectorshouse.org.uk

Mind, mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393

Samaritans, samaritans.org, 116 123