Hundreds of people came together at Grange Park in Dudley to celebrate the Great Get Together. Local community groups, residents, bands, food stalls and leaders united to demonstrate what we have in common.

The community concert was held to mark the 2nd anniversary of the death of MP Jo Cox, who was murdered by a far-right extremist in the run up to the EU referendum in 2016. The event was a collaborative effort between Unite Communities, the TUC, Black Country Radio, Friends of Grange Park and HOPE not hate.

It is testament Jo Cox’s enduring legacy that an act of violence that was committed to drive communities apart and turn neighbours against each other had the opposite effect in Dudley where hundreds of people of different races and religions gathered to share what the community had more in common.

On an almost unbearably beautiful day, people revelled to the sounds of local Dudley artists such as Jess Silk, Giant and the Georges, El Sam, Systematic and others. Speeches were also given by local MP Ian Austin, HOPE not hate organiser in the West Midlands, Arun, Rob Johnston from the TUC and Karen Paskin from the Friends of Grange Park.

Ian Austin spoke about how community events like this help us to reject division, reject hatred and unite Dudley against those who seek to divide us. He then led a minute of silence to reflect of the memory of Jo Cox.

Rob spoke about the importance of days like the Great Get Together in light of events happening around the world, namely the separation of parents from their children in the USA and the anti-Roma rhetoric being used in Italy. Such acts which preyed upon people’s fears of the other and the demonisation of immigrants should always be resisted, he argued.

It fell upon the main organiser for the event, Karen Paskin – a local Dudley resident – to repeat the mantra for the weekend: We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us.  

Whilst such events may seem like a drop in the ocean of all the anxiety in Britain and the healing that seems necessary in our divided communities, it is important to reflect upon the successes.

Over the last month in the lead up to the event, just short of 1000 people engaged with the local HOPE not hate – Dudley Facebook page. Content from the Facebook page reached over 7,500 local people. Several hundred attended the event over the course of the day which was something of a miracle considering it coincided with England vs Panama at the World Cup!

It’s important to keep in mind that this event was taking place in a town that has been consistently targeted by the far-right – National Action in more recent times, the EDL in the past and the BNP beyond that. Dudley is a town that is characteristically “post-industrial” and marked by the hate incidents that escalated after EU referendum. It makes the work being done by HOPE not hate in this town all the more relevant.

Here’s to many more days like that one and the continued success of HOPE not hate’s work in the West Midlands.