Cribs collection boosts charity
A SPECTACULAR collection of 450 nativity sets attracted hundreds of visitors in Kingswood.
The displays have been collected by resident Jackie Elliott, 74, during her travels around the world.
Every year she lets the public view her collection at St Michael the Archangel church, Two Mile Hill, to raise funds for the cancer support group she runs.
Jackie set up the Gastro/Oesophageal Support and Help Cancer Group, or GOSH Bristol, with her husband, John.
She said: “My husband was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 2004 and had a successful operation to treat it.
“The surgeons began referring other people to John to talk to, so we thought we’d set up a meeting for other people with stomach and oesophageal cancers. We thought it would be a few of us having a drink and a chat.
“Ninety people turned up to that first meeting.”
The husband-and-wife team started running the bimonthly meetings, which are attended by people from as far away as Yeovil and Swindon.
Jackie said: “The nearest similar group is in Birmingham so there’s a huge need for our group.”
She began displaying her small collection of nativity sets, bought for her own home and her children, at the church Christmas fair. She then had the idea of running an event to raise money for GOSH Bristol.
She said: “John and I decided to travel as much as possible after he’d had his operation, to make the most of our time.
“We began collecting a nativity set in each place we visited. I have ones from South America, North America, and all over Europe.
“They range from minuscule ones to life-size ones, from all kinds of materials. Some are carved from coal, fish bone or wood, or made of glass, terracotta or fabric.
“John’s cancer came back four-and-a-half years later and he died, but I decided to carry on running the group.
“It’s good to just talk to other patients and their relatives who are in a similar situation about symptoms, treatments and so on.
“I’ve carried on collecting the nativity sets while travelling with a friend. When we display them at the church, lit with candles and with music playing, the atmosphere is wonderful.”
The 2021 nativity display was the first for three years, because of Covid restrictions in 2020 and a leak in the church roof in 2019.
Jackie, who is recovering from a recent hip replacement, this month faces the long task of boxing up each set to store ready for next Christmas.
By then, she hopes to add even more to her collection.
She said: “I’m travelling to Iceland this year, so I’m hoping that they’ll have some interesting nativity sets. I’m also going to Oberammergau in Germany and taking my grandchildren to Lapland, so I’m sure I’ll find some more sets to add to the collection.
“It’s a bit of an obsession. If I see a set I haven’t already got, I have to buy it.”
Visitors to the display donated £700. The money will be used to fund GOSH Bristol’s hall hire costs, subsidising travel for those who need it and be put towards social events such as trips to the Hippodrome.
GOSH Bristol is held at the Park Centre on the last Tuesday of every other month. The next meeting takes place on 25 January from 7 to 9pm.
For more details on the support group, contact Jackie.firstname.lastname@example.org