'More in Common: in memory of Jo Cox' exhibition set to open

Placards, banners and artwork created in the aftermath of the death of Jo Cox will go on display for the first time at a new exhibition in memory of the former Batley and Spen MP at the People’s History Museum (PHM) in Manchester.

By Dominic Brown
Sunday, 16th May 2021, 6:00 pm
Our Yorkshire Rose banner, 2016. Photo courtesy of Jo Cox's family
Our Yorkshire Rose banner, 2016. Photo courtesy of Jo Cox's family

"More in Common: in memory of Jo Cox will open on Wednesday, May 19 and it represents the culmination of a comprehensive community-led project inspired by the legacy of Jo, together with an exploration of her life, work and values.

The starting point, which has informed every element of the exhibition, are Jo’s words - “We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us” - spoken in Jo’s maiden speech in the House of Commons on June 3, 2015.

These are also words that resonate powerfully with PHM’s headline theme of migration, which is being explored in lots of different ways throughout 2021, including within this exhibition.

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The Jo Cox Memorial Wall in Westminster. Photo by David Holt

Central to "More in Common: in memory of Jo Cox" will be the Jo Cox Memorial Wall, going on public display for the first time since her murder in June 2016 when it was erected outside the Houses of Parliament.

Now part of PHM’s collection, the wall features the handwritten tributes of hundreds of people, including children, and will stand alongside a new virtual Wall of Hope on which visitors to the museum and online will be able to add their personal tribute messages.

Also going on display for the first time are the placards, banners and artworks that were created in the aftermath of Jo’s murder.

Visitors to the exhibition will find out more about Jo and her life; her personal story and experiences, what led her to becoming an MP and how her campaigning was driven by a desire to see equality in education, the promotion of closer communities and addressing loneliness. From her election as an MP, to times enjoying family fun, images and objects help to understand Jo’s story and the way that she lived her life.

#LoveLikeJo artwork by Drue Kataoka

One of her journeys is depicted by her favourite mountain hat, which accompanied her on expeditions around the world and which Jo’s family now take with them on their own adventures; including continuing a quest to climb all 282 of Scotland’s Munros.

Carrying forward Jo’s legacy is the Jo Cox Foundation; visitors can learn more about the work carried out in Jo’s name, including the celebratory spirit of The Great Get Together.

For younger visitors to the exhibition, PHM’s Learning Team has put together a special resource for children to use and take home with them. This looks at Jo’s story and the issues that it raises through younger eyes so that children and families can discuss and explore her legacy through the exhibition in a way that is meaningful to them.

Jo’s story appears alongside the exploration of four narratives told by the More in Common project group. The group, made up of more than 30 individuals, came together as strangers with shared values and a desire to explore the beliefs and philosophy they also share with Jo.

Tributes to Jo Cox from pupils at Warwick Road Primary School in Batley

Meeting at first in person and then online during lockdown, the More in Common project group has played an important role in shaping the exhibition as well as directly creating some of the content.

Abir Tobji, CultureLabs project manager at the People’s History Museum, said: “Jo’s beliefs and message reach out to everyone and represent the values that she lived by, just as this exhibition is intended to reach out to everyone.

"Jo’s story joins the stories of individuals who embody her belief in ‘more in common’ and highlights the realities of a diverse world, both from an individual and collective perspective.

"We hope all of the stories will inspire visitors to gain a greater appreciation of the power of a ‘more in common’ view of the world.”

A Batley Bulldogs rugby ball signed by the girls' team

Kim Leadbeater MBE, Jo’s sister, said: “This exhibition is a fantastic way to remember Jo, her life and her work. It has a special resonance as it coincides with the fifth anniversary of Jo being taken from us.

"As a family we have taken the opportunity to go through the piles of photos and other memories of Jo and many of these will go on display for the first time.

"It’s been a bittersweet experience, of course, but we are hugely grateful to everybody at People’s History Museum for their work in putting on what I know will be an amazing and inspirational exhibition.

"I hope as many people as possible will take the opportunity to see it – in person if possible but, if not, online.”

The exhibition will feature lots of visual objects illuminating different aspects of "more in common". This includes a series of mixed media canvases of the More in Common project group that will form a montage around a portrait of Jo Cox created by artist John Priestly. Forty-two small squares with 21 portraits take the approach of a jigsaw puzzle to illustrate "more in common" with Jo shown at different stages of her life.

"More in Common: in memory of Jo Cox" will be accompanied by a self-guided trail that has been specially developed for families.

The exhibition has also been designed so that it can be accessed online, including the Jo Cox Memorial Wall, and the new Wall of Hope is digitally interactive, meaning that anyone anywhere in the world can add a tribute for Jo.

For more information, visit www.phm.org.uk.