THE EYES of the world were on Batley once more as hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the life of Jo Cox on what would have been the MP’s 42nd birthday.
Jo’s sister Kim Leadbeater joined her mother Jean and father Gordon at the front of the packed-out crowd for the memorial outside Batley Town Hall.
Market Square was filled with people of all ages, races and religions as they joined together to celebrate Jo’s life and achievements.
Addressing the crowd, with a single white rose on her shirt, Kim spoke about her “caring, compassionate and inspirational” sister.
She added: “On behalf of all Jo’s family, thank you from the bottom of our hearts to each and every person who has sent their love and sympathy to us in the last few days.
“We have been truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness and support and it has provided great comfort and strength in order for us to keep going.
“Knowing that Jo touched so many lives has genuinely made such a huge difference to us.”
Ms Leadbeater added: “From Batley to Burma and from the Spen Valley to Syria, Jo’s life was centred around helping people and standing up for the causes she felt passionate about – and there were many.”
She continued: “I don’t have any answers as to why such a horrendous and tragic event has occurred in our lives.
“But I do know that Jo would not have wanted any of us to allow it to make her life anything other than the force for good it always was.”
Kim called on the crowd to take action and make a positive change.
She said: “My sister would want her murder to mobilise people to get on with things, to try to make a positive difference in whatever way we can, to come together and unite against hate and division and fight instead for inclusion, love and unity.
“In memory of Jo, we would like you to take part in a moment of action by making a pledge in Jo’s name.
“It may be something as simple as pausing to consider how our actions might affect other people, or taking the time to get to know others around us, or even giving up squabbling about the washing up.”
Kim urged the crowd to share their positive changes on social media with the hashtag #LoveLikeJo and #MoreInCommon.
Her call for action came after the crowd had heard a moving tribute from Jo’s husband Brendan, which was broadcast live from Trafalgar Square and beamed on to a huge screen at the Market Square in Batley.
Many onlookers were in tears as they watched Mrs Cox’s husband address the London memorial event.
After the speeches, the crowd was urged to celebrate Jo’s memory and musical performances were held in Batley.
Pupils from Norristhorpe Primary School serenaded the crowd with ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ and ‘Love Shine a Light,’ receiving a huge round of applause.
Batley Community Choir also performed ‘The Rose,’ with the crowd joining in.
The choir announced they would be selling the single to raise money for the Jo Cox memorial fund.
Headteacher of Upper Batley High School also took to the stage to pay tribute to Jo. She said: “I feel privileged to have known Jo if only for a short time. We hit it off immediately because Jo had such a warmth, passion and steely determination.”
Speaking of Jo’s frequent visits to the school she added: “Jo made politics real and accessible for everyone and she touched the hearts and minds of everybody that she met.
“‘Believe and you will achieve’ is a statement we said a lot.
“She inspired young people to believe that they had leadership qualities and could go on to become great leaders.”
Head boy Mohammed Raja also spoke in front of the crowd, and was comforted by Jo’s sister Kim during the speech.
He said: “She was instinctively accommodating and her smile was infectious.
“She offered to help me with anything at the school or any other problems I came across.
“Her warm personality made her loved by everyone.
“Her drive and energy was unique and the community of Batley and beyond will miss her greatly.”
Year 7 pupil Bilal Khan said: “She was strong-minded and believed passionately that she could make Batley and Spen a better community to live in.
“She was a voice to all of us and told us we could achieve what we believe in and that’s what made her shine. We will miss you.”
After the ceremony, balloons were released in Jo’s memory and hordes of people queued up to sign the book of condolences, which was set up next to floral tributes that had been left outside Batley Town Hall.
Yorkshire MPs Rachel Reeves, Paula Sherriff and Dan Jarvis were also in attendance.