Yardley MP Jess Phillips joined more than 200 Birmingham teenagers to mark the start of a UK-wide weekend of celebrations in memory of murdered MP Jo Cox.
The 14 and 15-year-olds from Ninestiles school, Acocks Green, and Cockshut Hill school, Yardley, formed a large heart shaped human chain and spell out the word ‘Jo’. The pupils, many of whom speak English as an additional language, then shared a picnic together.
The event marked the start of thousands of community picnics, bake-off competitions and street parties taking place across the country the weekend - June the 17th and 18th. The idea, known as The Great Get Together, was 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”. This event was jointly organised with The Challenge, the UK’s leading social integration charity, which works in the West Midlands, as well as in other parts of the country.
Brendan Cox, Jo Cox’s husband, said:
“I’m hugely grateful to Ninestiles school and Cockshut Hill school, as well as our colleagues at The Challenge, for making this fantastic event happen."
“It’s a brilliant way to kick off The Great Get Together weekend and I’m looking forward to seeing the aerial photo that the students come up with. I wish all the pupils from both schools taking part the very best and hope that everyone involved has a great afternoon.”
Jess Phillips MP said:
"One of the wonderful things about my friend Jo Cox was her willingness to speak up. Today she would have thoroughly approved of pupils at Cockshut Hill and Ninestiles who are speaking up about the needless divides between us on grounds of faith, skin colour, class and so much else. Together we will ensure that her message that we have more in common is never forgotten."
Jo Cox was murdered by a far right extremist in her Batley and Spen constituency days before the EU referendum on June 16th last year.
Shayma Begum, aged 15 and a pupil at Cockshut Hill school, said:
"I 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”.
“We need to come together to celebrate all that we have in common.”
Jason Bridges, Interim Principal of Cockshut Hill school, said:
“This is a difficult time for our country because a small minority are trying to divide us, but an event like this - and the Great Get Together weekend - is a show of strength and a statement that we have more in common as the people of London and Manchester have so movingly shown us."
“My school has pupils and staff from many countries and this adds to the richness and strength of the school. It is a tremendous honour to be part of The Great Get Together’s celebrations.”
Jackie McGillicuddy, Vice Principal of Ninestiles school, said:
"The idea that we have more in common than that which divides us permeates through my school's culture. In assemblies and tutor time we regularly discuss and celebrate aspects of different faiths and backgrounds,"
"As a school we have a duty to educate our students and prepare them to be citizens of the future. With the tragic and heinous events of recent weeks, the message that young people today, with aspiration and dedication can change the future, is one that we cannot tire of repeating. Together we are certainly stronger. and enriched."