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Hundreds gather to celebrate Jo Cox’s life

By Jack Averty | Sandwell | Politics | Published:

“It was undoubtedly the worst day of my life as a member of parliament.”

Tom Watson with Sandwell councillor Syeda Khatan and those who attended the Great Get Together at Sandwell Park Farm

These are the words of Tom Watson as he held back the tears to pay tribute to his murdered colleague Jo Cox.

Mr Watson, the MP for West Bromwich East and the deputy leader of the Labour Party, was speaking at a Great Get Together event at Sandwell Park Farm on Saturday afternoon.

It was one of thousands of events taking place across the country over the weekend in memory of Mrs Cox, the MP for Batley and Spen who was murdered on June 16 last year.

Jo Cox

The Jo Cox Foundation, set up her by husband Brendan, had asked communities across the country to organise events where people had a chance to enjoy being together.

The Great Get Together in Sandwell included face painting, badge making and a craft competition.

An emotional Mr Watson told the Express & Star: “There were thousands of events up and down the country in memory of my colleague Jo Cox, who was brutally murdered a year ago.

“We were honouring Jo’s memory in a way that she would expect us and want us to do which is to bring all communities together for a big family event.

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"We got all faiths and no faiths along to the event, people from all over the borough sharing food and events and having fun. I am immensely proud of the people who got together.”

Dignitaries at the mosque in Wolverhampton

“The Queen mentioned it in her statement, this has been a terrible year for our country with Jo’s assassination, the terrorist attacks, the terrible fire in London.

"It has been an appalling year but then you look at what the response has been from towns and cities up and down the country. In Manchester hosting the One Love concert to the event in Sandwell on the weekend, it is a country coming back together after being tested in the most brutal way. I am very proud of everyone for doing it.”

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Asked about Ms Cox and the tragedy that was her assassination last year, Mr Watson added: “I look back at the day we lost her, I got a call in my office to say there had been an incident and they were very concerned for her and some hours later her death was announced.

"It was undoubtedly the worst day of my life as a member of parliament.”

I had to talk to Brendan, her husband, soon after that. I have known him since he was a teenager. As a family they are very resilient and strong and they have got love at the heart of it.

“Jo was a remarkable woman and I think she could have gone very far in public life had she still been with us, which is why I think tens of thousands of people have committed to honour the principles that drove her.

"Acts of defiance like the event in Sandwell where people come together in the spirit of fun. Standing up for the principles of greater tolerance and understanding are powerful forces that her murderer did not he realise he was going to unleash - but he has done. Good will conquer evil.”

A meal was provided for guests at the Baitul Atta Mosque

Elsewhere in the Black Country, housing provider whg hosted an event at one of its new housing estates in Walsall. People were treated to an outdoor barbecue, arts and craft workshops for children, face painting and sports events at Waters Keep, near Goscote Lane.

In Wolverhampton, MP Pat McFadden hosted a bake off in memory of Mrs Cox at Bilston Town Hall.

WATCH: Footage from the Bilston bake off

Bilston bake off in memory of Jo Cox MP

The Wolverhampton South East MP encouraged people to bake a sweet treat and enter it into his competition and have a judged by a panel of judges including Dicky Dodd from Signal 107 and former Masterchef finalist Dennice McKinnon.

Entry cost £5 and the money raised went to the Jo Cox foundation.

On Saturday, the Baitul Atta Mosque and Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Centre, based on the Willenhall Road in Wolverhampton, hosted vigil prayers in memory of not just Mrs Cox, but murdered PC Keith Palmer and those who fell victim to the Manchester terror attack last month.

The event was attended by dignitaries including Mayor Elias Mattu, Toby Ephram, national outreach worker for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, Major Andy Johnson, MP Eleanor Smith and Mosque president Muhammad Yaseen Khan, all pictured above.

Jack Averty

By Jack Averty
Senior Reporter - @javerty_star

Reporter with the Express & Star, based at head office in Wolverhampton

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