ONE year to the day after the brutal murder of Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen, religious groups, charities, politicians, and others are set to mark the anniversary with a celebration of British unity in her memory.
The Great Get Together, organised by Mrs Cox’s husband, Brendan, and the Jo Cox Foundation, is expected to bring thousands of people gather for street parties, community barbecues, sports days, bring-and-share picnics, cake sales, concerts, and more. It runs from Friday to Sunday.
The event is inspired by words from Mrs Cox’s first speech in Parliament: “We are far more united, and have far more in common than that which divides us.”
Prominent religious leaders are among the 117,000 people who have signed up to take part in the Great Get Together, including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.
“The Great Get Together is a fitting tribute to the life and legacy of Jo Cox MP, her public service, and her commitment to the inclusion and flourishing of all people in society,” Archbishop Welby said. He particularly wanted churchpeople to join with the C of E’s Near Neighbours programme, which is in partnership with the Great Get Together.
“The Great Get Together is an excellent opportunity for all of us to strengthen the ties that bind us — as local communities and as a country — and to practise our values of hospitality, welcome, and generosity.”
Dr Sentamu also supports the initiative. The York diocesan synod on Saturday would take time to remember Mrs Cox and her legacy, he said. “A meeting of our diocesan family is a great time to thank God for Jo Cox. She inspired us with her passion for finding common ground with people of good will and building a better world with them.”
The event was devised by Mr Cox to ensure that his wife’s life and work was foremost during the anniversary, not the division and hatred that motivated her killer, Thomas Mair, a white supremacist (News, 25 November).
THE GREAT GET TOGETHERTHE GREAT GET TOGETHERHe said: “I’m both amazed and humbled that so many people have said they want to take part in the Great Get Together. I think the huge response is because we’re tapping into the national mood. A desire for unity and togetherness rather than the divisiveness of politics and the public debate in recent years.
“We are hearing about new events all the time, and there will no doubt be many that just happen spontaneously. The important thing is that it will be a lot of fun, and will, hopefully, play its part in reminding us all of the values that make this country such a great place to live.”
Birmingham Cathedral will host its own Get Together on Saturday afternoon. Those who attend will help to construct a giant origami dove, which will then be displayed in the Cathedral Square.
The Acting Dean, Canon Nigel Hand, said that the Chapter had been working with Near Neighbours, and the anti-extremist group Hope Not Hate, to ensure that Mrs Cox’s message of “more in common” was broadcast to the whole city.
The Vicar of Cleckheaton, the Revd Brunel James, has organised a community picnic in the centre of the town, in partnership with his local Churches Together group.
Mrs Cox was the local MP for the town, and Mr James told the C of E’s podcast that this meant that the Great Get Together was a cause close to his heart.
“It was very much a local thing: Jo was our local MP, and losing her is something that still hurts; so this isn’t just another news story: it’s our story,” he said. “It’s always been our mission, to hold things together, to promote neighbourliness, to have pastoral care which reaches every home in the community. We’re doing this because of Jesus’s command to love your neighbour.”
Those who attend the picnic have been asked to come dressed in gingham, the theme of the whole event, which was “striking a chord”, Mr James told a reporter.
“It implies a kind of homely and wholesome set of values, sharing tea and cake, but it also checks different strong colours, a symbol of differences standing alongside one another and producing something beautiful.”
All three bishops in the diocese of Blackburn have issued a joint statement encouraging people to join in the festivities. “The murder of Jo Cox was . . . an attempt to divide communities and to undermine democracy, but the response to the murder in the year since it happened has shown the British people will not be intimidated by such cowardly acts.
“We have prayed God’s Kingdom values of justice, love and peace and the Gospel of Jesus Christ might transform the hearts of people who would sow hatred and fear. The Great Get Together will shine a bright and positive light to put a moment of darkness into perspective and we hope everyone taking part in events this weekend has a great time but they also take a moment to remember Jo Cox and reflect on why they are participating.”
The Great Get Together has also organised rivals to work together temporarily for the event. The Sun and The Daily Mirror are set to run a joint editorial; and the editors of The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph have also written a column together.
All four living former Prime Ministers have also put aside their differences to record messages about what they believe unites Britain.