Five years ago today, on June 16 2016, Jo Cox MP was murdered in her constituency of Batley and Spen, West Yorkshire. Jo’s death was a personal tragedy for her family and caused shock and dismay across the UK and the world.
Those who were fortunate enough to know her personally were touched by her humanity, kindness, good humour and tireless energy. Those who know her only by reputation or have learned about her since her death are moved by her belief that a fairer, kinder, and more tolerant world is not just possible but achievable. In response to her murder, many people promised to do things differently. The first ever Great Get Together united the nation for three days from June 16 2017 by bringing people together with street parties, picnics, and other community events; on the anniversary of Jo’s murder. More people participated than in the Diamond Jubilee.
Since then, the Jo Cox Foundation has held four annual Great Get Togethers which have brought together 18 million people. Events have a positive impact both on the places where they are held and on the people who take part; in 2019, 71 per cent of organisers said events made them feel less lonely and the same amount felt it had united their community. In 2020, six million people took part in virtual and socially distant Get Togethers, with the majority agreeing that participating in the Great Get Together allows people of different backgrounds to get on better in their community.
Though the UK can often feel divided, the Jo Cox Foundation’s own research shows that the UK isn’t nearly as divided as people might think. Recent findings showed a renewed sense of connection within communities at the local level. The majority of the UK population believes that people from different backgrounds get on well. Our research shows that 60 per cent of people feel they belong in their local communities. Over the past year, we have seen that in action as communities around the UK have rallied to provide help and support during the most difficult times.
With current restrictions ongoing, the Great Get Together provides an opportunity to celebrate our communities in a way that is safe and fun for everyone, and there is still plenty of scope to make new connections in whatever way you are comfortable with. It is an occasion where we can celebrate the human connections we’ve been missing over the past 16 months.
The 2021 Great Get Together takes place this weekend from 18-20 June. If you have never organised a community event before, then the Great Get Together is a great place to start. They can be large or small, within social distancing rules, and can include socially distanced street parties, online pub quizzes, community teas and sports events. The Jo Cox Foundation is offering loads of resources to help you get started.