Award-winning singer, songwriter and actress Beverley Knight gets honorary doctorate from BCU


Beverley Knight MBE has been hailed as the “Queen of British soul and a true icon of the West Midlands” by Sir Lenny Henry after receiving an honorary doctorate from Birmingham City University (BCU) at an awards ceremony at Symphony Hall.


Birmingham City University

Born in Wolverhampton, Knight is an award-winning singer, songwriter and actress, who was awarded an MBE by the Queen in 2006 for services to British music and charity. She also performed at the closing ceremony of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. 

Sir Lenny Henry, Chancellor of BCU, said: “Beverley is the Queen of British soul and a true icon for the West Midlands, well and truly flying the flag for Wolverhampton. 

“She’s an accomplished songwriter and a dynamite live performer. She's been behind some of the most powerful music to come out of the UK in recent times – and if that wasn’t enough, she’s also made a huge impact in her charity roles.”  

Knight, who lists Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin among her early influences, said: “I am thrilled to be conferred with an honorary doctorate from Birmingham City University. I have always spoken of my pride at being part of the community of fantastic musicians hailing from the Black Country and Birmingham, as beautifully demonstrated at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. 

“I hope my career can inspire the young minds who share the graduation day with me.”  

In her acceptance speech, Knight praised BCU graduates for their “resilience and perseverance” and urged them to “be bold”. 

“Don’t be scared to take the path which is less travelled because down that path there is going to be something more amazing than you could have ever predicted.”  

Best known for the songs ‘Greatest Day’, ‘Get Up!’, ‘Shoulda Woulda Coulda’ and ‘Come As You Are’, Knight has won three MOBO Awards, received three nominations for Best Female at the Brit Awards, and has also been nominated for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize.  

She has sung with Prince, Take That, Chaka Khan and Jamiroquai, to name but a few, and has scored several Top 10 albums, with more than a million sales in the UK. 

In recent years, Knight has also forged a formidable career in theatre, receiving, in April, an Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for her much-praised portrayal of Emmeline Pankhurst in 'Sylvia' at the Old Vic. 

She also received Olivier Award nominations for her roles as Faye Treadwell in the critically acclaimed 'The Drifter’s Girl' and as Felicia Farrell in the Tony-winning hit show 'Memphis The Musical'. 

Her first new studio album in seven years, ‘The Fifth Chapter’, will be released this September, followed by her biggest-ever tour of the UK this autumn. 

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00:00:02:10 - 00:00:50:21
Philip Plowden: Ladies and gentlemen, as vice chancellor, I exercise the authority of the Academic Board and confer the award to Dr. of the University honoris cause on Beverly Knight. And I invite you, Chancellor, to present the commemorative medal.

Beverley Knight: Thank you so much for all those lovely words, and thank you guys for cheering and everything that so well. Firstly, I just want to say I am so, so chuffed and blown away by this gorgeous place.

00:00:51:13 - 00:01:15:06
Beverley Knight: Oh, absolutely beautiful. I honestly, it's such an honour to be on this stage doing this as opposed to being there with a microphone, which is what I'm more used to. I'm standing this side with a microphone and talking and not singing. But thank you all for for all the love and everything that you've shown to me this morning.

00:01:15:06 - 00:01:48:00
But. And, you know, what's more important to me is the fact that this is home, that I am in my own area. This is a local uni. And, you know, the fact that you guys are kind of honouring me with this, you don't know how much it means to me. Thank you so, so very much. Thank you. Right now, enough of me.

00:01:48:00 - 00:02:10:14
Enough of me. Today is all about you guys and how hard you have worked. And I want to offer my sincere and heartfelt congratulations to all of you. Give yourselves a round of applause. You've done brilliantly, brilliantly.

00:02:16:15 - 00:02:30:08
It's been three or four in some cases years of hard, hard work and of sacrifice. This thing is poppin like a popcorn.

00:02:32:21 - 00:03:07:11
It hasn't been easy at all. You guys are unique in the world in that it is your generation who has had to study under the most adverse conditions. You had to learn through a pandemic. So a lot of times, you know, a lot of you were at home having to learn remotely. You know, 30 years ago when I was at university, I at least, you know, I came in, I had my lectures.

00:03:07:11 - 00:03:39:04
It was all good, you know. But a lot of you were sitting there having to struggle through learning on computers, you know, on your own, isolated. And then it just went on and it went on and it went on. But you came through it. You're here. You've graduated. And that points to the big thing that I wanted to just encourage you in, and that is resilience and persistence.

00:03:39:11 - 00:03:55:23
Don't let anybody tell you you cannot do this because you can. Because you did already. You've been through the fire. Yes.

00:03:59:24 - 00:04:31:09
When I was your age, I had these huge dreams, huge ambitions. You know, I wanted to make it in the music industry. And, you know, all the years later, I'm stood before you now. But I know how it feels to be where you guys are. You know, just on the cusp of doing something you don't even know perhaps exactly what it is, but you've got a clear idea of wanting to succeed.

00:04:32:07 - 00:05:09:22
Go for it, own it, grasp it. There's going to be a lot of opportunities that will come your way. I say to you, take them. Sometimes opportunities come and they come disguised as challenges. You know, the the speech that preceded me picking up this lovely gong, it referred to the challenge that I had when I made my fourth album and the reception was in some quarters, quite mixed and in others negative.

00:05:10:04 - 00:05:32:11
But it was a challenge, but it was also an opportunity because in doing that, in making that album, other people were looking at what I was doing and it led directly to me being in this TV show, just the two of us, which then led to me going on tour with tape that I would never have predicted that.

00:05:32:17 - 00:05:58:14
So when things go a little bit left and the path that you've cut for yourself, you think it's going to be a straight one, and then it starts to bend and you're like, okay, what happens here? Don't think of it as being a disaster. Often those are the times where the opportunities are presenting themselves for something so great you could never even predict it.

00:05:59:12 - 00:06:32:16
So don't be scared to try and to not succeed. Immediately you get yourself up and you go again. Don't be scared to take that path which is less travelled. Because down that path is going to be something amazing that you could never have ever have predicted. So finally, I just want to say to you, be bold. You know, go out there and grab the world by the you know what?

00:06:32:16 - 00:07:03:00
I can't say what I want to say because my mum's there. She'll kill me. But you guys can do this. Whatever your chosen field is big up. All the people who are doing performance arts have graduated in in music and acting. Whatever it is you choose to do, know that there is nothing that can get in your way that is insurmountable.

00:07:03:12 - 00:07:42:18
Because if you guys can study through a pandemic, there is nothing. And there is no one that can hold you back from anything. So huge. Congratulations. Be amazing and just fly, fly, fly, fly. Grab everything every opportunity and have a great time this afternoon. You've earned it. Well done, all of you.