Manchester comes together to remember Jo Cox in a new exhibition that celebrates her life
More in Common: In Memory of Jo Cox is a new exhibition at the People's History Museum in Manchester inspired by the legacy of the British politician. The show is the result of a comprehensive community-led project and explores her life, work and values.
The starting point, which has informed every element, is 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 3 June 2015. These are also words that resonate powerfully with the Museum's headline theme of migration, which is being explored in lots of different ways throughout 2021.
At the heart of the exhibition will be the Jo Cox Memorial Wall, going on public display for the first time since Jo's murder in June 2016 when it was erected outside the Houses of Parliament. Now part of the Museum's permanent 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 on display for the first time are the placards, banners and artworks that were created in the aftermath of Jo's murder.
If you get a chance to visit, you'll discover more about Jo and her life, her personal story and experiences, what led her to become 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 us to understand Jo and the way that she lived her life.
One object on display is 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.
Jo's story appears alongside the exploration of four narratives told by the More in Common project group. The group, made up of over 30 individuals, came together as strangers with shared values and a desire to explore the beliefs and philosophy they also share with Jo.
Meeting at first in person and then online during the lockdown, the group has played an important role in shaping the exhibition as well as directly creating some of the content including a series of mixed media canvases that form a montage around a portrait of Jo Cox created by artist John Priestly. It features 42 small squares with 21 portraits, displayed almost like a jigsaw puzzle to illustrate "more in common" with Jo shown at different stages of her life.
"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," says Abir Tobji from the Museum. "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."
More in Common: In Memory of Jo Cox runs until 24 April 2022 and 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.