Jo Cox birthday: Smiles, laughter and tears for 'wonderful woman'

People in Trafalgar Square Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Thousands of people gathered in London's Trafalgar Square

"A beautiful event for a wonderful woman."

That was how one of the thousands of people who had gathered in London's Trafalgar Square to mark killed MP Jo Cox's 42nd birthday described the hour-long celebration, which featured smiles, laughter - and more than a few tears.

Some of those listening to the speeches and performances had been close friends of Jo Cox. Others were friends of friends.

Still more had worked alongside her, or her husband Brendan. There were also those who had never met the MP, as well as others who had not heard of her before her death last week.

But what they had in common was they all wanted to join together to honour her life.

And join together they did in a literal sense, holding hands with loved ones and strangers alike and raising them to the sky when asked to pledge out loud to "love like Jo" - the salute reaching across the crowds who filled the square.

Image caption Cathy Egan said she wanted to "celebrate Jo's life - not how she died"

And they joined in a minute's silence, the only noise coming from the brakes of passing London buses, the birds in the sky and the occasional chatter of a small child.

The performances reflected those things Jo held dear: Somewhere Only We Know, the song the family used to sing when leaving their holiday cottage; and Can You Hear the People Sing, from Les Miserables, a song loved by the fan of musicals.

'More in common'

This was a celebration of Jo Cox the person, as well as the politician - the wife and the mother, as well as the activist and campaigner.

One of the most moving moments was the enthusiastic performance by the choir of her young son's primary school, which was met with rapturous applause.

The pain on her husband Brendan's face was all too clear to see, and an almost unbearable sight on the big screen by the side of the stage.

But amid the sadness there was room for joy too - the crowd laughing when he pointed out that she was not, in fact, 5ft nothing "but at least 5ft 1in or 5ft 2in".

Image caption Michael Edwards, pictured with Kelli Horton, said the event promoted "inclusion"

He said he wanted their children - watching from nearby - to know what their mother meant to people all around the world.

Gemma Mortensen, one of the organisers of the event, said it had sprung from Jo's friends wanting to "make sure the way the public experience this isn't dark - it's not all black and depressing - we've got to show love, and express what Jo was in a way of love".

She said: "Jo believed people are inherently good, and we believe that, and that's what we are seeing.

"People respond to that goodness in her. And we wanted to give people the chance to experience that sense of goodness, love and hope, and send a promise to her that her death will count and the world will be better - because we owe it to her to make it better."

Those who attended expressed a desire to show solidarity in light of the MP's death.

Image caption Charles Keidan attended with his partner Rebecca Steinfeld and their daughter Eden Keidstein

Cathy Egan, from Aldershot, said: "I wanted to celebrate Jo's life, not how she died. I have lived my own life believing we have more in common with each other than differences. I believe in love and joy, and she seemed to be the same."

University lecturer Michael Edwards had taken a group of students to Amnesty UK and decided to bring them to the celebration.

"We had been talking about human rights champions and defenders - and Jo as a fine example of that," he said. "The message I really feel from this event is one of inclusion."

'Inspired love'

Kajsa Lancaster, originally from Sweden and now living in Woolwich, south-east London, said: "When something like this happens, it's incredibly important we unite. The good thing that can come out of a tragedy is that we all come together like this."

David Obaze, from Little Venice, west London, added: "I wanted to be here because she inspired everyone to love human beings, no matter what race, gender or sexuality. She is a human being that I want to be like."

Image caption Kajsa Lancaster said it was "incredibly important" for people to unite

Charles Keidan, who has worked with Brendan Cox, said it was "extraordinary to be among so many likeminded people".

"It's a small thing we can do. I feel a sense of solidarity and of warmth."

His partner Rebecca Steinfeld said of their one-year-old daughter Eden Keidstein: "I hope she can grow up to be half of what Jo Cox was."

Paul Harrison, 33, from Watford, added: "It was a wonderful event. I haven't felt that emotional watching something in all my life. We were asked to hold hands and promise to love like Jo, so that will be in our minds now to do that and, hopefully, it will have a karmic ripple effect."

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