I wasn’t expecting an email from the Swedish ambassador but then we are living in surprising times. He had heard about the Great Get Together that we were planning to hold in our Marylebone square. Shauneen Lambe and I went off to meet him. We came back with the promise of 100 home cooked cinnamon buns.We had both known Jo Cox, not well, but enough to know she was an incredible force for good and so we had decided to organise one of the community parties that her husband, Brendan was encouraging the nation to do on the anniversary of her murder.
We also invited the young people from ‘Let Us Learn’ to the tea so they could meet the residents of my Marylebone square. Jo did a great deal of work with refugee and migrant communities and so inviting these young people seemed right – they are all from migrant families and are campaigning to be allowed to access funding for university places that their current status does not allow.
I dont know very many people on my square so we thought hard about how to get the local residents to come – luckily the garden square association got behind us and helped by emailing everyone and putting us in the square newsletter, a career highlight.. I think this marketing was probably more successful than all the flyers we put through letterboxes – although that did indulge my fantasy of being a club promoter.
Shauneen took the lead on the games and activities. I took the lead on the food and drink. I lucked out because a few emails to my old colleagues at M&s and tea for 60 was winging its way to my doorstep.
The day arrived – one of the hottest of the year and I became nervous that no one would come. But they did, not in huge numbers – but there was a brilliant mix of ages, backgrounds and stories. The Swedish ambassador brought his family, Just for kids law employees came with their families and the kids growing up on my square got to meet some kids they would never have talked to in normal life.
We played games, had races and most importantly, Sharon one of the Let us Learn team told her story very movingly to the gathered group.
Thank you to everyone who contributed and made the event all we could have wished for. I imaging Jo would have loved it.
I dont write all this detail because Shauneen and I did anything complex or remarkable but because I was struck at the generosity of spirit everyone showed to help make the afternoon a success.
Jo is famous for saying we have more in common than divides us and our experience underlines that with a big bold pen.
I was also interested at how my neighbours were pleased to meet each other and share some fun – its often written how we have lost a sense of belonging in our local areas and how we all lead atomised lives. It may be true but if my experience is anything to go by, it doesn’t take very much to change.