What a wonderful weekend of Great Get Togethers.
In Dewsbury, Batley and the Spen Valley, thousands came together at different locations to celebrate murdered MP Jo Cox’s belief that we have more in common than that which divides us.
In her former constituency of Batley and Spen, in the Huddersfield Episcopal Area, the weekend started with quiet reflection on Friday as a steady stream of people began to trickle through Birstall Market Place from around 9.30am. They stopped to remember and commemorate the tragic events that happened there one year ago.
By lunchtime on Friday, children from Upper Batley Boys High School, St Peter’s Church primary school and Field Lane junior, infants and nursery were all in place ready to sing.
The theme was All We Need Is Love. Kirklees Arts Partners, Creative Scene had a paper flower craft stall up and running and had installed a gazebo for people to decorate and hang their flowers and messages of love and hope for the future, pictured left.
Local priests were on hand if people needed them and Batley Parish church was open all day for quiet reflection and to light candles.
On Saturday, the sun shone brightly for all the Great Get Togethers taking place.
In Hanging Heaton, there were cheerleaders from Rachel Walker's school of dance, pictured right, the mascot from Dewsbury Rams rugby club – one of the many local sponsors for the event – pictured below, with two fans.
The Bishop of Huddersfield, the Rt Revd Jonathan Gibbs came down to share tea and cake and there were children’s activities, a treasure hunt, before lunch together at 12 noon.
In Gomersal hundreds together to share a picnic; there were games, dance routines and summer festival music thanks to Yorkshire alternative acoustic band, Fie Fie Fie - and an appreciative tweet from Batley and Spen's MP, Tracy Brabin.
Down the hill in Cleckheaton, the Ska band, The Baghdaddies were rocking Cleckheaton's Memorial Park from 1-3pm to accompany the picnic in the park organised by Cleckheaton Churches Together with support from Kirklees Council.
Local Methodist minister John Santry said: "It was lovely when Jo’s sister, Kim Leadbeater and her family joined in with the dancing - and really special when a local family turned up with a bottle of 7UP for every guest - even though they were fasting for Ramadan themselves!"
£176 was collected at the picnic and sent to help the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in London.
The Vicar of Cleckheaton, the Revd Brunel James, said: "Extremists are doing their best to tear our society apart - we need to do everything we can to hold the community together and show that what Jo Cox said is true - we have more in common than that which divides us".
There were more family events and a big picnic and family games in Roberttown from 11am until 2pm before strawberry teas from 3-5pm in the afternoon.
In Batley a vintage bus was serving free refreshments all day in the Market Square. The local Italian restaurant brought out pasta and that evening over 600 people gathered in the Memorial Gardens from 8.30pm for Batley’s Big Iftar.
Children (right) from Purlwell Infants School has written a funny play that explained that Ramadan is a month of mercy, fasting and helping those in need.
There were poems from the Batley Poets, see below, and words from women from the Pakistani Kashmiri Welfare Association. This grassroots community association provides social, welfare and educational services to the general public, and in particular to the Pakistani and Kashmiri communities of Batley; it was Jo Cox's first fund raiser. A group of women – who had first come together to learn English, read out their memories of Jo.
As the sun was going down, all the faith leaders present gathered on the stage for a minute of quiet reflection before the imam called those gathered to prayers in the Memorial Park.
Men and women prayed in different areas of the Memorial Garden. Muslim friends shared dates and water to break the fast before people made their way to the tables laid out in Batley Market Place – to eat together. Pictured right.
The sun came out again on Sunday, all the Batley churches came together for a picnic at 12 noon in the shade of Batley Parish church. The different faith leaders all spoke movingly of more in common and there were takeaway bags for Muslim friends observing Ramadan.
There was an open air ecumenical service before walking together up to the Batley Bulldogs stadium for the fun day organized by the Bulldogs for More in Common.
The Bulldogs had given away thousands of free tickets for their game against Sheffield Eagles; there was organised family fun events and a minute’s reflection before the game.
Back in Birstall, St Peter’s organized a tea party with games, entertainment and a bouncy castle at 4pm.
In Wakefield - hundreds gathered to eat their picnics for a Great Get Together on Heath Common.There were two fundraising walks, music by local artists, poetry and lots of cakes. There were other Great Get Togethers at the Cathedral Academy School and at the Hepworth Gallery and in the evening hundreds of all faiths and none gathered in Wakefield Park to break the fast together with the Bishop of Wakefield.
In Bradford - Bradfordians of all creeds and colours flocked to 'Iftar in the Park' . The event in the city centre was described as a “ beautiful event of unity and togetherness”.
In Leeds there were Great Get Togethers in All Hallows and Leeds Grand Mosque
My Batley, by Mohamed Saloo - one of the Batley Poets:
From the cobbled stones to the hills of green
Timeless vision of a Batley scene
Rich in history, diversity and faith
United in pride, friendship and praise
Vibrant in colour, fragrance and sound
Pleasant by nature, friendly all round
Red bricks, sand bricks, chimneys and slate
Walls and rooftops, that makes Batley great
Towering clock, in the market square
Memorial gardens, to show we care
Passing strangers, with a friendly nod
A place where friends, don’t mind being odd
And then I witnessed, from a cobble bay
When Batley united, for Festival day
A final boast, I think I should add
It’s nice to be a Batley lad!