On Sunday night, at The Other Palace Theatre in London, something very special happened. A cast of extremely talented West End performers occupied the venue, coordinated by the wonderful Jay Bryce and showcased their remarkable talent and compassion.
The performances alone were a treasure to witness and I am still, admittedly, a little starstruck to have even have been in the same room as some of the true stars of musical theatre in the capital city's professional theatre community. The breathtaking vocals of the likes of Claire Parrish and Madalena Alberta, Molly Lynch and Adam Linstead were just some among the vast amount of talent across the evening; with special mentions to the unreal power belts of two thirds of 'Sapphire Soul', Caroline Sheen for THE BEST choice of two contrasting songs for a concert I've ever seen EVER (reprising her role of Mary Poppins with a gorgeous version of 'Feed the Birds' followed by a hilarious return to her Welsh roots with 'A Simple Valley Song' from Jet, Set, Go! which she introduced as something her husband recommended she sing as it was about a 'welsh slapper') and finally the phenomenal Johanna Riding who made me cry for the second time in two weeks with her rendition of 'Scarborough', which I was lucky enough to see in The Girls Musical last week before its closing.
I really could go on.
But what struck me most about last night was how all these stars ended up in the same room, or rather what they were showing their solidarity for.
On the 16th June 2016, an act of extreme cowardice led to the tragic death of remarkable MP Jo Cox, leaving her constituency and the rest of the nation heartbroken.
But even in the days following her death, her family insisted they would not 'respond to hatred with hatred' as this was not Jo's nature and this encouraged the community to do the same. She was an extraordinary woman who, in her little over a year in parliament, had already shown her passion for social justice and compassionate nature; famously stating in her maiden speech in parliament 'We have far more in common than that which divides us'.
This in mind as motivation, Jo's successor Tracy Brabin along with her constituents in West Yorkshire and the west end theatre community are setting out this summer to create a positive legacy for Jo.
It may be hard to believe but last night's concert was simply a fundraiser for the big thing.
I know right.
Must be big.
And I guess this is where I come in. This is how I, a 19 year old 'aspiring' actress from Yorkshire, pretty far off from the other performers of last night's gig, ended up singing on The Other Palace stage alongside this amazing company with professional Les Miserables alumni Jay Bryce and Fra Fee either side of me, the famous 'You'll Never Walk Alone' from Carousel for the finale.
Here we are...
Again, I know right.
The concert last night was called 'A Barricade for Batley' and was to raise money for the project I am lucky enough to be involved in; 'Hear the People Sing'. A fully professional production team from London led by award winning director Nick Evans and West end producer Donna Munday arrived in Yorkshire on Wednesday morning to begin our second week of rehearsals for the full scale production of Les Miserables to be staged in a renovated warehouse in Batley and Spen. The motivation behind the whole thing being to produce Jo's favourite musical, a musical that stands for change and revolution, in her memory to start a youth theatre company in her constituency as part of this legacy.
The entire project is a mammoth task and has hundreds of people working hard and I promise to keep my blog posted with updates on what is already shaping to be a remarkable production.
But if it hadn't already struck me before, Sunday night really hit it home just how amazing this project really is and how what we are doing is all because of Jo.
I feel Nick Evans, award-winning director and leader of the 'Hear the People Sing' project, got it absolutely right on Sunday. He greatly moved the audience as he does frequently with the young people, myself included, by saying he was approached very recently by a lady who introduced herself as Jo's mum. She thanked him and said it is things like 'Hear the people sing' that despite having endured the worst time of her and her family's life, these are the things that are actively 'making it about what she stood for rather than what that man did'.
They are setting out to give every young person in the area the opportunity to 'artistic excellence', the opportunity to be one of those people stood on that stage at The Other Palace Theatre on Sunday, regardless of economic or ethnic background or situation because that is something that she so passionately stood for.
'We have more in common that which divides us'.
And with the help of the likes of Jay, Tracy, Donna and Nick, in honour of Jo Cox, those opportunities are becoming possible for the young people of Batley and Spen and with something on this remarkable scale, it's a phenomenal example of when people come together, amazing things can happen.