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More in Common: in memory of Jo Cox

On Wednesday 19 May 2021 (until 24 April 2022) More in Common: in memory of Jo Cox will open to the public at People’s History Museum (PHM) coinciding with the reopening of the museum. The exhibition represents the culmination of a comprehensive community led project inspired by the legacy of Jo Cox together with an exploration of Jo’s 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 3 June 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.

Jo Cox Memorial Wall (C) David Holt.jpgCentral 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 Jo’s 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. One of her journeys is depicted by her favourite mountain hat, which accompanied her on expeditions around the Logo, company name

Description automatically generatedworld 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.

Illustration by Danielle Rhoda for People’s History Museum.jpgFor 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’s 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 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 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.

Costumes that tell of the past, present and future of Manchester’s diverse population and its roots in colonialism, examined via the lens of the cotton trade and fashion industries, are the focus of the first installation. Each costume creatively incorporates the themes and looks towards a colourful future. The second installation looks at the experiences of a group of diverse women in Manchester. Visually represented by a collection of photographs and collages it covers a range of themes such as self-censorship, media representation and stereotypes of different migrant communities. The third shares the outcomes of a project that has invited conversations between the Voices of Manchester; strangers from different backgrounds and with different lived experiences inspired by Jo Cox’s legacy of ‘more in common’. The fourth installation plays with time, memories and lockdown experiences to look at how individual stories can be relatable to all.

Abir Tobji, CultureLabs Project Manager at People’s History Museum, says, “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.”

Kim Leadbeater MBE, Jo’s sister, says, “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 on-line.”

This will be a very colourful exhibition, with 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. 42 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 opens at People’s History Museum on Wednesday 19 May 2021 (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.

The More in Common project led by People’s History Museum has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation under grant agreement no 770158 (project CultureLabs).