People from Batley and Spen in Yorkshire and Borough and Bankside in London were moved to get together to show strength and build up their communities’ resilience. These two places became connected in more ways than one…
In 2016, Jo Cox MP was murdered on her way to meeting residents in her community of Batley and Spen in Yorkshire, where she worked to bring people together across divides. Tragically, she was killed because of her beliefs. Following Jo’s murder in June, Hope Not Hate got people from across the country to organise local events to remember Jo. In Batley, about 40 people came along including Kim, Jo’s sister. A group of volunteers then hosted a community fun day at a local school in September, to help people feel united in grief and hope, rather than despair.
Dave from Batley said:
“The event was a big success and those of us involved didn’t want to stop after that, so we met to decide on what to do next, and that is where the More In Common Batley and Spen group was formed”, to maintain and develop Jo’s legacy in the local area. The More In Common group have since organised annual Great Get Togethers in Batley and Spen.
“We are focused on building a strong and compassionate community where everyone has a sense of identity and belonging. We aim to provide opportunities for individuals to make connections by bringing people together, celebrating Jo’s life and continuing her work following her belief that “we have more in common than that which divides us.”’
In 2017 the communities of Borough and Bankside in South London experienced terrorist attacks on London Bridge and in Borough Market. Residents were inspired to put on a Great Get Together that year in the aftermath of the trauma on the anniversary of Jo’s murder.
Amir Eden, executive chairman of Living Bankside, said:
“The Great Get Together has become an important part of the Bankside calendar and we continue to take inspiration from the values of Jo Cox.”
In 2021 more than 60 bike riders cycled 280 miles to Bankside from Batley on the Jo Cox Way which was started in 2016 by Sarfraz Mian.
“From the very tragic event that took place we wanted to use cycling as a vehicle to connect people and spread a message of hope, positivity and also to celebrate all of the excellent activities that are undertaken in our communities by people supporting each other.
“Over the years, the event has grown and grown, it has drawn in people from all communities, encouraged participation in cycling with many people finding a passion for riding. As we look back over the last 7 years, hundreds of thousands of miles have been cycled around the UK and beyond by Jo Cox Way riders.”
In 2021 cyclists got a warm welcome in Bankside at the end of their five-day journey, which helped kick-off their Great Get Together. It was a highlight of the event for many people.
Jo’s sister Kim Leadbeater MP and her parents Jean and Gordon Leadbeater joined the Mayor and Mayoress of Southwark to welcome the cyclists.
“It’s a very emotional day but we’ve developed a really great relationship with the people here in Bankside and appreciate so much how they’ve continued to host a fantastic Great Get Together this year.”
At the event the More in Common group in Borough and Bankside was officially launched, as the tenth group in the UK and the first in London.
These two very different communities, many miles apart, are strongly connected by their experiences. Joseph Bonner, Chair of Bankside More In Common group feels that they could be seen as being twinned by terror, but he is keen to say that they are actually joined by hope. Anyone who shares Jo Cox’s values can start a More In Common group or organise a Great Get Together and join the Network. Joseph thinks: “We have a lot to learn from each other and can give each other support to develop”.
Clare Black from Batley and Spen More In Common group says:
“We believe that communities are stronger when working together. Our cycling journeys celebrate the unsung champions that work tirelessly up and down the country, in our towns, villages and cities.
“In 2022, we would like the communities along the route from West Yorkshire to London to get involved, join in the daily rides, and welcome cyclists arriving at each stopping point and setting off each morning. The Jo Cox Way isn’t just a “way” meaning a route, it’s also the way Jo saw the world, about connecting people.”