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Celebrity relatives plan for their own time in the limelight for good causes

Being close relatives of larger than life celebrities is no mean feat but the sister of comedian Sir Lenny Henry and the mother of soul singer Beverley Knight are taking it in their stride.

WOLVERHAMPTON COPYRIGHT EXPRESS AND STAR STEVE LEATH 06/10/2021..Pic in Wolverhampton at the Ramada Park Hall Hotel,  to promote a charity doo coming up, organised by L-R: Deloris Smith (Beverley Knights mom), and Kay Hinton (Lenny Henrys sister)..
WOLVERHAMPTON COPYRIGHT EXPRESS AND STAR STEVE LEATH 06/10/2021..Pic in Wolverhampton at the Ramada Park Hall Hotel, to promote a charity doo coming up, organised by L-R: Deloris Smith (Beverley Knights mom), and Kay Hinton (Lenny Henrys sister)..

Firm friends Kay Hinton and Deloris Smith, who both live in Wolverhampton, have taken time out from making preparations for a major charity black-tie ball to share how they cope with the demands of having a famous brother and daughter, respectively.

Dudley-born Lenny Henry has been a permanent fixture on TV screens since bursting on the entertainment scene as a teenager in the 1970s following his appearance on New Faces, a popular contest. Moving from stand-up, to theatre actor, a singer in his own right to Comic Relief fundraising champion to Chancellor of Birmingham City University.

While Wolverhampton-born Beverley Knight MBE has been wowing music fans for more than two decades with hits such as singer of the hit 'Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda,' and lead roles in musicals including The Bodyguard based on the Hollywood hit starring Whitney Houston and new musical The Drifters Girl based on the story of Faye Treadwell the manager of the The Drifters.

Sir Lenny Henry with his partner Lisa Makin after receiving his knighthood in 2015

Kay says: "It's all about the family for Len and for Bev and being grounded despite living in the limelight."

"There is immense pride and I'm sure Del will agree, you're always rooting for them. They do things in different genres and then you wait and see the newspaper reviews and it's a great feeling to see people appreciate them.

"We never expected anything on the scale of what he's accomplished at the beginning. We were the Henrys, who were known, for putting up other families when they didn't have anywhere to stay. Our mom was the go to person for wedding cake orders for the Jamaican community in Dudley back in the day.

"But she also had a big personality and that's where us children got it from.

"When she died 1,200 people came to her funeral from all over the place, including the US and Canada. When I asked them how they know us some said that they stayed with us in the days when folks couldn't get decent housing because we were black.

"We are so very proud of Len and all he's achieved. My brother is very kind and has never taken his success for granted. People wouldn't understand just how kind he is. He's never thought 'I'm okay Jack' and not think of others. He's just not that person.

"He is also very proud of Dudley and of helping put the town on the map through that success. I accompanied him when he was presented with the Freeman of the Borough, he particularly liked the bit in the charter which says a freeman can take his flock of sheep through the town."

"I've found that people will say and do strange things to make it look like they have been close to Len and to Bev when nothing could be further from the truth. Some years ago when I worked in advertising I was invited to event and I noticed a guy chatting up some ladies. I figured that his first name was 'Henry' from what he was saying.

"It turned out he was using Len's name to pull them. After a while I approached him and asked him who he was and he said that he was Len's brother. Well I replied that he couldn't be, because I'm Len's sister and I knew who all my siblings were. He was so embarrassed. As soon as he realised he'd been caught out he sort of disappeared and I didn't see him again.

"I can laugh about it now, but those sorts of things can be annoying."

Deloris with Beverley in 2018

"Len's loves his family and keeps in touch. He looks after us and we all support each other whether through good and bad times.

"I had cancer in 2019 and I've had treatment during the lockdown period so he couldn't come to see us, but he keeps in touch and asks me what he can do to help.

"I'd been shielding for a while. We still haven't seen each other this year, but I'm hoping we can meet up soon when his schedule permits. He'd been in New Zealand and I saw him when he came home last Christmas," Kay, a finance consultant says.

Deloris says: "To be honest it's so surreal when I watch Bev performing on stage and think about some of brilliant bookings, shows, the West End musicals and the festivals she's done. When she told me, she'd been offered The Bodyguard, I wasn't too sure about that one, but it turned out really brilliantly.

"She's done so many now that I sometimes lose count. And on the back of doing those she has done the festival work and hadn't really had time to record a new album.

"It can be exhausting too at times because I act as organiser for a coach trips for our family and friends who are always keen to see her in concert or at the theatre. You can guarantee as soon as a gig is announced the phone goes crazy. But we go and we always have a good time.

"She could sing before she could talk really and when she was growing up she always said she wanted to be a famous singer and sang gospel music due to our Pentecostal background.

"She keeps her feet on the ground and people will say to me, 'why is Bev so different?' But she says 'I love music, I love singing forget about the trimmings they come, I just ant to sing'.

Deloris Smith with Kay Hinton

"When she's on stage she's Beverley Knight, when she's finished she's Bev Smith and that's the way she's always been.

"She wanted to record certain types of music and she stuck to that. She did have a hard time at one stage. As a result for two years early in her career she didn't work because she is strong-minded and knew what she wanted to do with her music. She's got that sticking power.

"When times were tough for her and she wasn't working, we stood by her and supported her. That's what we're about as a family. We support each other no matter what and she knows we're there for her.

"When she comes home she does the rounds and visits everyone."

Deloris, says her husband Edward who died in 2010, was also a supportive force who was an "enabler of young people" and encouraged Beverley, and her siblings Adrian and Cynthia to make the most of their opportunities which has paid off. They also have seven grandchildren Beverley's niece Sophie, also an excellent singer, will be among the performers at the charity ball due to be held in the new year.

Deloris, who is a well known fundraiser of bereavement service Cruse Support and Kay, who recently underwent cancer treatment, have decided to combine their charity fundraising and business acumen to organise a black-tie ball due to be held at the Wyndham Ramada Park Hall Hotel, Goldthorn Park, in Wolverhampton, in the spring.

They hope to raise thousands of pounds in aid of mental health charity Mind, Cruse and Macmillan Cancer Support.

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