Today is the start of a UK-wide weekend of celebrations in memory of murdered MP Jo Cox.
The Great Get Together is being organised by the Jo Cox Foundation and was inspired by the murdered MP’s statement that we have “more in common than that which divides us”. Jo was murdered by a far right extremist in her Batley and Spen constituency days before the EU referendum on June 16th last year.
In Birmingham, over 200 pupils from two schools will form a large heart shaped human chain and spell out the word ‘Jo’. The 14- and 15-year-olds, many of whom speak English as an additional language, will then share a picnic together. They will be joined by recently re-elected Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley Jess Phillips.
Shayma Begum, aged 15 and a pupil at Cockshut Hill school in Birmingham, said she had decided to take part in today’s event because “it is so important to show that we support each other, no matter which faith we are from”. She said: “We need to come together to celebrate all that we have in common.”
Meanwhile in Manchester, Mayor Andy Burnham will talk to young people today on the power of community: “In Greater Manchester we have been through difficult days but we’ve seen the power of our communities when we come together, stand as one and say we will not be divided,” the Greater Manchester Mayor will tell more than 100 pupils from Chorlton High School, Manchester. "That is what The Great Get Together weekend is all about. By celebrating all that we have in common, we show that there is so much more that unites us.”
Zoe Morris, Headteacher of Chorlton High School in Manchester, said her school was proud to be multicultural and multi-faith. "Our students respect cultural diversity, value equality and champion the uniqueness in us all. The Great Get Together reflects our school values of cooperation, equity and social responsibility. It is a fantastic opportunity for us to join together, to celebrate and reaffirm our unity as one community."
Communities across the country are being encouraged to come together with friends, neighbours and strangers. More than 100,000 community picnics, bake-off competitions and street parties taking place across the country this weekend. Today’s events in Birmingham and Manchester have been jointly organised with The Challenge, the UK’s leading social integration charity.
Brendan Cox, Jo Cox’s husband, said: “I’m hugely grateful to the schools involved, as well as our colleagues at The Challenge, for making these fantastic events happen. It’s a brilliant way to kick off The Great Get Together weekend. I wish all the pupils taking part the very best and hope that everyone involved has a great day.”
Oliver Lee, Chief Executive of The Challenge, said: “We are delighted to be part of The Great Get Together and have fully supported the idea since its inception. The Challenge exists to bring people of different backgrounds together to develop their confidence and skills in understanding and connecting with others. The tragic Grenfell Tower fire and the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London have shown us so clearly the need for and importance of a strong sense of community. Now, more than perhaps before, we all need to come together at events like The Great Get Together. I’m sure it will be a great success and a fitting testimony to Jo Cox's tireless efforts for a more united society."
It's not too late to get involved - take a look here https://www.greatgettogether.org/ to find out what's going on near you.