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'I love Wolverhampton - and that's not Birmingham': Beverley Knight given Freedom of the City - WATCH

By Megan Archer | Wolverhampton | Wolverhampton entertainment | Published:

Wolverhampton favourite Beverley Knight has been honoured by the council with the Freedom of the City

Beverley Knight joins Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, Denise Lewis, Sir Jack Hayward and Hugh Porter in being given the Freedom of Wolverhampton

'From those days as a teen to where I am now, and the crazy journey my career has been on – it's just amazing.'

Those are the words of delighted soul star Beverley Knight as she received the Freedom of Wolverhampton.

She was honoured for her services to the city and public relations at a specially-arranged civic function.

WATCH: Beverley Knight talks of her pride at the honour

Beveley Knight given Freedom of Wolverhampton

Beverley, 45, said she was overwhelmed by the honour – and only wished her father could have been there to witness the moment.

"It feels amazing. I've come a long way. From those days as a teen to where I am now, and the crazy journey my career has been on - it's just amazing," she said.

Beverley was presented with the honour by Wolverhampton's new mayor, Councillor Phil Page

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"Here I am, back at home with my own people who are recognising what I do. It's brilliant. I just wish my dad was here today to see this, but I'm sure he's watching from somewhere."

Wolverhampton council has only granted a handful of the Freedom honours in the last 40 years, and chose Beverley along with Wolves legend Steve Bull.

Announcing the news back in March, council leader Councillor Roger Lawrence said: "These two characters have a lengthy and deep association with the city. They are people who care and who make a real contribution."

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Beverley went to Highfields School in the city and still goes back to visit the secondary school, most recently watching students perform Grease.

Husband James O'Keefe was at the ceremony at Ramada Park Hall Hotel

She also recently performed in front of thousands of Wolves fans at West Park for the club's 'Promotion Party in the Park'.

And Beverley, a Wolves fan herself, said it all added up to being a 'brilliant start to 2018'.

She said: "The huge celebrations in the park were just brilliant.

Embracing proud mum Dolores Smith

"It felt like we had the best weather, the lads were on great form, it felt like there was a real cohesion in the whole of Wolverhampton - you could feel it.

"I didn't see the journey down to West Park - I would have liked to - but you could just feel that everyone had come together for one common cause and that was so edifying."

She added: "Seeing Wolves back where we belong in the Premier League is just the best feeling.

"Everyone talks about the glory days, and they were a bit before my time, but I remember the rough days and dark days. And now here we are.

Showing off her award with sister Cynthia Clayton, mum Dolores Smith and brother Adrian Smith

"We bounced back a couple of times but now this feels like a much more permanent move.

"I love Wolverhampton. And that's not Birmingham, it's Wolverhampton."

Baroness Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis, former Wolves president Sir Jack Hayward, cyclist Hugh Porter are among those previously given the Freedom of the City.

Blue Peter's Radzi Chinyanganya, right, with sister Rufaro, left, and mother and city councillor Barbara McGarrity

The ceremony came as Councillor Phil Page was officially made the new Wolverhampton mayor after a poignant ceremony remembering his predecessor Elias Mattu

Mayor Page said it was a 'great honour' to become the 160th mayor of the city, while Councillor Claire Darke was officially declared as the deputy mayor of Wolverhampton.

In a speech read out at the full council meeting on Wednesday evening, Councillor Milkinder Jaspal said Councillor Page 'represented and stood for what a leader should be'.

He added: "Phil is someone who has character and style. His heart and soul goes in fundraising for his charities.

"He is honest, and someone who has values they actually believe in. Phil is that someone who respects people regardless of who they are."

In a touching moment, Councillor John Reynolds hailed the late former mayor Elias Mattu and his wife Asha for their 'tremendous enthusiasm, determination and commitment' during their year as Wolverhampton mayor and mayoress.

He said Councillor Mattu had 'a big heart and big ideas and made a big difference to the city'.

Conservative leader, Councillor Wendy Thompson, praised Asha - who is now Councillor Mattu for the Graiseley ward - for her 'great courage' in supporting her husband in mayoral office.

A tribute video to the late mayor was played to the chamber, which was met with a standing ovation at the end.

Councillor Asha Mattu then received commemorative medals from new mayor Councillor Page on behalf of her late husband for their service to the city.

Megan Archer

By Megan Archer
Deputy Chief Reporter - @MeganA_Star

Deputy Chief Reporter with the Express & Star. Give me a call on 01902 319363 or email megan.archer@expressandstar.co.uk.

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