One year from Jo Cox killing: charities urged to help communities heal


Jo Cox

​Murdered MP's husband talks exclusively to TFN

Graham Martin's photo

19th May 2017 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Scotland’s charities are getting behind a major drive to cut across division and hatred in memory of murdered MP Jo Cox.

Third sector leaders met with her widowed husband Brendan this week and pledged to support a UK-wide series of community events aimed at bringing people together.

They said they would work to promote Then Great Get Together, which will be held on the weekend of 16-18 June.

It is designed to be a positive way to mark the one year anniversary of the 41-year-old mum-of-two’s death at the hands of fascist terrorist Thomas Mair on the streets of her Batley-and-Spen constituency.

Brendan Cox spoke at a round-table meeting of leading figures from Scotland’s third sector, which was convened by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

He said: “Jo had this huge energy and threw herself at life and I wanted to remember how she lived rather than how she died.

“What her killing was designed to do was to divide communities, so finding an opportunity to bring communities together on the anniversary of her death feels like the right thing to do.”

Brendan Cox

Brendan Cox

Her killing was designed to do was to divide communities - but we're bringing them together

The Great Get Together already has the backing of UK-wide charities and organisations, such as Help for Heroes, Amnesty International, the RNLI to the RSPB, the Scouts and the Guides.

Organised by the Jo Cox Foundation, the charity set up after her death, people are invited to get together with their neighbours to share food and celebrate all that we hold in common, whether that’s through a street party a barbecue, a picnic or a bake off.

Among the groups pledging support at the Scottish meeting were Age Scotland, YouthLink, Hope Not Hate, the Befriending Network, the Scottish Refugee Council and Alzheimer Scotland.

Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, told TFN: “Jo dedicated her life to the struggle against injustice and intolerance, including through her work with Oxfam. Across the world, hatred – and the violence that so often flows from it – are far too common and Jo’s death highlighted the need for us all to recommit to challenging intolerance. 

"Nowhere should consider itself immune to these challenges, including Scotland. Jo’s own contribution was cut short but she has inspired something positive in all of us and the Get Together initiative creates an excellent platform for people to come together in their community.” 

To find out more about The Great Get Together click here.

"I will use the rest of my life to take on the ideas that killed Jo"

Following the meeting, Brendan Cox spoke exclusively to TFN on what he wants The Great Get Together to achieve.

He said: “What the third sector is all working on is how you build stronger, more resilient communities, whether you are addressing hate crime or refugees or the loneliness of Alzheimers.

“That’s the thread that holds us all together and it’s not something that any individual or organisation can fix, it’s a big societal challenge. This is the therefore the beginning of something, not the end of something.

“The way you have an impact on big issues is by doing small things. What all forms of division have in common is group-based identity and the way you challenge that is to meet with and engage people who aren’t in your

“So the Great Get Together is not a panacea, but it’s one example of how you bring people together in a way that doesn’t normally happen.

“I think that there’s an idea of division in society because of the way we work – smaller and smaller workplaces, the way we engage online, the social sorting means we can go for long periods of time without meeting someone of difference and one of the best ways of addressing that is to physically get together in a neighbourhood.

“Pretty much every single neighbourhood has differences – whether they are age, sexuality, where you’re from, how you vote. It’s about getting people to interact with people they might sometimes perceive as the other.

“I think it’s very hard to hate groups when you know people from them. It’s very easy to hate in the abstract but when it becomes up close and personal it becomes much more difficult.”

He said that while divisions exist, civil society is pushing at an open door when it comes to overcoming it as perceptions of division are generally over-played.

Cox explained: “People are sick of being told they hate each other because I don’t think they do. There’s a disconnect between the public-political debate which has us all divided and hating each other and consistent
evidence from opinion polling, which shows that 25 % of people are very liberal, 25% are very illiberal, and 50% swing between the two depending on the issue.

“That hasn’t changed – we’re not actually a more divided country, it’s just that the extremists have become more vocal and have started to dominate the debate.”

He told TFN that he does not know how the Great Get Together will develop in the future –  only that it is a battle that must be won, that “these interventions can’t be one-off, they have to be sustained, become organic and hyper-local” and said he has pledged the rest of his life to bringing people together.

Cox said: “We will see exactly how this goes after June. Through the Jo Cox Foundation we will continue this work. I am personally focused on making sure I use the rest of my life to take on the ideas that killed Jo.”