Batley will be transformed into a sea of bright colours

Batley will be transformed into a sea of bright colours

I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since the spectacular scene where I sat in the park in Batley watching local children perform a play as the sun gently vanished beyond the horizon.

Their moving words, spoken with such sincerity and maturity, inspired hope, unity and togetherness in the crowds who had gathered to commemorate the life of Jo Cox.

And this is exactly what the Big Iftar, and the Great Get Togethers that will follow, are all about.

On Saturday, Batley town centre will once again be transformed into a sea of bright colours as mouth-watering aromas hang in the air while people of different faiths, groups and beliefs share their cultures and break fast together.

I am incredibly excited and thoroughly looking forward to being a part of the second annual Big Iftar, which will also mark the beginning of several weeks of events to celebrate our wonderfully diverse communities as the Great Get Together approaches.

The Batley Bulldogs will be kicking off proceedings on June 17 with a day of music, dance and sport, culminating in a match where the club take on Yorkshire rivals the Sheffield Eagles.

And with other local events including the Grand Get Together at Batley OIder People’s Centre and a Great Get Together at Howard Park, there’s plenty coming up for people to get involved in.

For my part, physical exertion is one of the ways in which I’m showing my support.

It began this week with the annual House of Commons vs House of Lords Tug of War in Parliament, an event Jo took part in just two weeks before her murder.

It was an emotional evening tinged with sadness, but our hard-fought victory over the Lords and the funds raised for Macmillan Cancer Support helped put a smile on everyone’s faces.

I’m also in training for the Run for Jo at Oakwell Hall later this month, so if you so see me dashing through the streets looking sweaty and beleaguered, you know why!

This takes us through to The Great Get Together itself, where people throughout the nation will be gathering to celebrate all that unites us.

Last year a mind-blowing 120,000 events of varying scales took place across the country – and Batley and Spen was at the centre of it. 

It begins this year on June 22 – the day that would have been Jo’s 44th birthday. 

And while it will always spark painful memories for many, I’m a firm believer that the widespread show of unity sends a powerful message to all those who seek to divide us.

Since that fateful day in 2016, the Jo Cox Foundation and More In Common have continued the work of my predecessor and built a legacy I know she would be proud of.

Jo famously said in her maiden speech “we have far more in common than that which divides us” and it’s more important now than ever that we do not forget this.


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