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Jo Cox, the Batley & Spen MP, was taken from us on Thursday 16 June 2016. Her murder shocked the world, none more so than the people of Batley and our area.
Just 6 days before she died,we gave a concert in Batley that Jo had wanted to attend. We had contacted her and invited her to attend. She planned to come, partly because she was supporting Forget Me Not as charity of the month, but also partly because Jo supported local events whenever she could. Then she got back in touch, apologising and explaining that she was double booked. So she offered a raffle prize instead. Not a box of chocolates or some smellies, but a bottle of Parliamentary wine, which she brought up to little old Batley from London. We planned for Jo to come to a future rehearsal and meet everyone, perhaps even have a sing with us…..
The morning after her death, we were contacted by The Last Leg, Channel 4's award winning comedy chat show. They asked us if we would perform on their show in tribute to Jo. Of course, we said we'd be honoured to do it. We felt we couldn't say no. We are the Batley Community Choir. Many would argue that no single person has done more for the Batley Community in the last year or two than Jo Cox, and everyone who met her says the same thing – she making a real difference in the world, but doing it in the right way. We felt we needed to pay tribute to her, and to do it on behalf of Batley. We chose to sing “The Rose” as we felt the lyrics were apt – Jo was Batley’s Rose, a Yorkshire Rose, the Labour party’s emblem is a rose and the song is about love, rebirth, hope…. it all fits.
The reaction we got overwhelmed us. People from around the country thanked us, told us how fitting it was.....and started asking when the single was out. "What single?!" was our response....
We began to make plans.... and then on Tuesday 21 June we got a call from Fazila, Jo Cox’s assistant, asking us to sing again in Batley the next day, on what would have been Jo’s birthday. Events were happening around the world, and we agreed without a moment’s thought. By the middle of Wednesday afternoon, shortly before we were due to sing, all we needed in place to make the record happen was the blessing of Jo’s family. We got the call with 15 minutes to spare, and were told that Jo’s family were overwhelmed, and gave their blessing, as long as Jo’s sister Kim didn’t have to sing.
We sang The Rose again, and this time we got everyone to join in with the final verse – we had over 2000 people singing for Jo.
It was a wonderfully fitting tribute, and we were able to announce to the people of Batley that we were planning to release the single. We put appeals out for local people to come and sign with us again - you can hear two BBC Radio Leeds interviews by clicking below.
Find out how to buy The Rose here
On Sunday 3 July we recorded The Rose at Batley Town Hall with over 200 singers, with a video being shot throughout the day. You can watch news coverage of the recording below: