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Beverley Knight plans to meet Wolverhampton chemistry student Brian White

By Marion Brennan | Wolverhampton | Entertainment | Published:

Singer Beverly Knight, who helped highlight the plight of Wolverhampton chemistry student Brian White who faced deportation, is planning to meet up with him.

Beverley Knight and Brian White

The West End star took to social media in support of the campaign to allow him to stay in the UK and take up his place at Oxford University. The Home Office had said he would have to return to Zimbabwe because he had only temporary permission to live here.

But on Monday the decision was reversed after an online petition received the backing of more than 80,000 people.

On a visit to Wolverhampton this week, the singer said social pressure had saved his life.

She told the Express & Star: "I'm so happy about this decision. Brian's case should be highlighted as a really positive example of what people can do when they apply pressure for social justice.

"Social justice often has a bad rep as being about a load of yoghurt knitters but what's better than a whole bunch of people getting together to support and, you can't overstate it, save the life of a young man - because what would be be deported back to?

"Sometimes being silent is the same as being complicit. Not always, sometimes you can be very much in fear of your life. However, in Brian's case staying silent would have been wrong. You have to speak out sometimes."

The 44-year-old star was kept informed of the campaign by Sharon Bishop, a teacher at Highfields School, Penn, where Brian studied after arriving in this country from Africa at the age of 15, and where Beverley was also a pupil.

She now plans to meet him in January during her panto run at the Birmingham Hippodrome when she will be playing the part of Fairy Godmother in Cinderella.

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She said: "I would love to meet him and that would be a great opportunity."

The singer was at the Arena Theatre in the city centre with her mother and three of her nieces for the premiere of Memphis by Wolverhampton Youth Music Theatre, which she attended as a youngster. She went on to star in the West End version of the show, which saw her nominated for Best Actress In A Musical at the 2015 Olivier Awards.

Ms Bishop, who was also at the show, revealed that the star paid for more than 50 pupils from her old school to go to London and see her in the musical during its run.

She said: "We'd invited her to Highfields to see a production we were putting on but she couldn't come because of her commitment to the show, so she paid for tickets for everyone to come down and see her instead. It was a wonderful gesture."

Marion Brennan

By Marion Brennan
@Marion_EStar

News and features reporter, specialising in human interest and local history stories.

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