”My friend Jo loved a party. And she loved boats. So it’s only right that we should all drink beer and get on a boat.”
Wirral South MP Alison McGovern addresses a crowd bathed in afternoon sunlight on Liverpool’s waterfront on Saturday afternoon.
She is hosting one of the 120,000 events being held across the country as part of the Great Get Together, in memory of fellow Labour politician Jo Cox.
There’s a performance by the Liverpool Signing Choir - who sign lyrics to music - and afterwards, everyone will get on a Mersey ferry and throw 300 red and white roses into the river. Everyone here seems happy. The mood of the afternoon is upbeat.
A year before, at a hotel a couple of miles down the road, every single Merseyside Labour MP, hollow and reeling, had gathered for a hurriedly organised tribute to their friend and colleague, who had been murdered by a right wing extremist two days before.
They laid flowers and lit candles and talked about the 41-year-old through tears and with ashen faces. Of course they did - because politicians in Britain should not be gunned down outside the library where they are preparing to meet their constituents to hear their concerns, to help. The shock is palpable and the grief is raw.
This time it’s different. Jo, the popular and locally-born member for Batley and Spen, is talked of in the way her widower, Brendan says she would like to be remembered. With love and happiness, and fun.
“Where’s the bar?” an elderly man who has happened upon the gathering asks me.
I tell him it’s just inside the Cunard Building, one of the city’s iconic ‘Three Graces’.
“Oh, I didn’t realise you could go in. Great,” he says.
Moments later, he is chatting away to some of the local Labour Party members who’ve helped organise the event.
Jo’s family have been clear all along that that’s what the Great Get Together is all about - bringing communities closer and championing the politician’s assertion that we have more in common than that which divides us.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the public’s response,” Brendan said.
“Millions of people have taken part right around the country. We’ve been inundated with stories of neighbours meeting each other for the first time, of old friendships being rekindled and of cake overload.
“Time and time again in the last couple of days we’ve been asked to make this an annual event. And while we don’t know what form it will take in future years, it’s clear we couldn’t stop the momentum even if we wanted to. What I hope we can do is keep providing a platform to focus on the things we have in common.”
Among other events across the country was a huge street party at Bankside, close to the scene of the Borough Market terrorist attack.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan joined a giant picnic at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
And in Jo’s former constituency in Yorkshire there was a multi-faith service at Batley Parish Church and a fun day at the Batley Bulldogs Rugby Ground.
Brendan added: “The Great Get Together took on a life of its own this weekend and it feels like what would be needed for future might be less about Jo or our family and more about a simple opportunity to bring our communities together.
“I’ve no doubt many of the hundreds of people who organised events will have great ideas of their own for what that should be. But I’m sure it’s what Jo would have wanted and it would be a legacy she would be proud of.”