My Best Teacher - Beverley Knight

20th November 2009 at 00:00
One of six black pupils in a 400-plus school, the soul diva was always encouraged to believe she could achieve her musical ambitions

I think my primary school was one of the best in Wolverhampton. It was called Woodfield Infant and Junior. It was superb in so much as the standard of education was seriously high because you couldn't fail to have a strong grasp of the correct English.

I was obviously musical and everyone in the school knew it. I was always called upon to sing in school concerts and assembly. That was my role. I was utterly fearless and I'm lucky because that has continued right the way through adulthood. You need to be fearless especially if you are going to be a performer, and being in front of people held no fear. I was one of six black kids in a school of 400-plus and I stood out. I had the voice of thunder.

I was always involved in extra-curricular activities. I belonged to most of the after-school clubs, whether sporting or musical. I was also bookish - I looked the part too; two pigtails and glasses.

Mrs Barnard, my form teacher at primary school, was outstanding. She was the woman who told me directly that I was very special and would achieve whatever I wanted to in life. And at seven years of age, I believed her. She told my parents that they should encourage me academically but also in music because they had a gifted child.

She had jet-black hair that had a few grey strands in it. It was long and parted in the middle. Looking back, she was probably in her late 30s. She was of Polish origin but she had married an Englishman.

She gesticulated a lot, which always fascinated me. Looking back now, I can imagine that if she had a set-to with someone, it would not have been pretty. Anything she did, she did with a passion.

Mrs Barnard taught English throughout the time I was there and she influenced me in English in a big way. She recommended the book Supergran by Forrest Wilson, which I read because she said it was brilliant, and I loved it. She encouraged a lot of my poetry. I was always writing, and she taught me all about creative writing. I'm pretty sure that the reason why I ended up being a songwriter, as well as a singer, was down to those very early attempts at poetry, which Mrs Barnard would look at and encourage.

When I visit Wolverhampton, if I go to the market or uptown with my mother, I might see Mrs Barnard and I give her a hug and tell her that she was one of the women in my life that I credit with the success that I have. I mean that because I put a lot of value in great teachers and teaching. Kids like me never forget that one teacher who told us we could do it. I was lucky as other teachers were encouraging, but she stood out as someone who took time to notice people.

Mrs Barnard has seen me perform. I invited her to a concert in Wolverhampton and dedicated my single "Gold" to her. I got an engineer to find out where she was sitting so that the house lights could shine over her and I could see where she was.

I would also like to mention my music teacher at secondary school, Mr John Regler. Highfield was your regular state comprehensive school, but again it was superb. I have received an excellent standard of education from there.

He was very encouraging of me in music. However, even though I didn't take music as a subject (I don't read music, I play by ear), he still comes to every concert.

  • Beverley Knight has just released her latest single, `In Your Shoes'. She has also launched a cosmetics range, K by Beverley Knight. She was talking to Sheryl Simms.

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