West End director seeks youngsters to star in Les Misérables show in honour of Jo Cox

It is a musical that has been seen by 70 million people across the globe and one that was a personal favourite of the late Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox.

Now, a special performance of Les Misérables will take place in Batley - and organisers are looking for local young people to make up its cast and crew.

Professional West End director Nick Evans will stage a production of the School Edition of the musical in Blakeridge Mill this summer.

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The show, which is being backed by current MP Tracy Brabin and Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire Sir Gary Verity, will be performed entirely by youngsters and will celebrate and commemorate the life of Mrs Cox.

Jo Cox

Ms Brabin said: “This is a phenomenal opportunity for Batley and Spen and I know our young people are going to grab it with both hands.

“It’s no secret that I’m incredibly passionate about the arts and the career opportunities they bring. Culture can be a powerful force for change.

“It doesn’t matter who you pray to, what clothes you choose to wear, the colour of your skin – when you’ve a play to get on, that’s all that matters.

“I hope participating in this will be an enriching and enlightening experience, a confidence booster and potentially for some, the first step in a long and fulfilling career in the arts.”

Jo Cox

Mr Evans plans to bring together some of the best theatre professionals in the West End world to create the show, which organisers say will be “beyond anything Yorkshire has ever seen”.

He will be working with the newly-formed Batley and Spen Youth Theatre group as well as other local organisations.

And he is calling on young people in Kirklees to audition and get involved.

Singing, dancing and acting roles are up for grabs as well as off-stage positions including crew, designers, costume makers and stage managers.

Mr Evans, who has worked on West End shows including Mary Poppins, Billy Elliot and Jesus Christ Superstar, said: “To make this amazing we are looking for brilliant youngsters.

“We are making an impassioned call on all young people between the ages of 13-19 to get involved and tell us what they have to offer.

“You might be happier sewing costumes than singing a solo. You might be happier selling programmes than standing on a barricade. Whatever you want to contribute, we need you to be involved.

“This is an event that will change Batley and Spen forever - and it might just change your life into the bargain.

“Les Misérables is a piece about change, passion, and standing up for who you are so it is no surprise that it was the favourite show of Jo Cox MP, who was so tragically taken from us last summer. But without you, it can’t happen.”

The event already has the support of Binks Development Ltd, which has loaned the Mill to Batley and Spen Youth Theatre for the staging of the show, and Les Misérables producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh, who has granted the group the rights to perform the School Edition of the show.

Mrs Cox’s family are also backing the production project.

Hr sister Kim Leadbeater said: “The performance of Les Mis at the heart of Jo’s constituency using local children will be something she would have been very proud of.

“It is very touching and well thought out and our family would like to thank all involved.”

Anyone who is interested in working alongside industry professionals to take part in the show is invited to attend a workshop and audition weekend on March 11 and 12 at St Mary’s Social Club and Parochial Hall, Melton Street, Crossbank, Batley.