BB star Darnell coming home to Ipswich

BIG Brother star Darnell Swallow was today preparing to make a return to the town of his birth as the special guest at a festival promoting racial harmony.

Grant Sherlock

BIG Brother star Darnell Swallow was today preparing to make a return to the town of his birth as the special guest at a festival promoting racial harmony.

The popular singer and songwriter has agreed to launch Saturday's Ipswich Respect Festival and will give a special performance of his new single.

Darnell, 26, emerged from the Big Brother 9 house on the final night of the reality TV contest, finishing fifth with 15 per cent of the public vote.

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His friends and family in Ipswich, which he left as a child when he moved with his mum Bernadette - a former Stoke High School pupil - to the US, had followed his progress in the show closely and he developed a strong backing in the town.

Today Shelly Littlejohn, joint co-ordinator of the Ipswich Respect Festival, said she was delighted that Darnell had agreed to open the event.

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“We noticed he was always wearing his Respect hoodie so we thought it would be appropriate to get him involved,” she said.

“His involvement really helps. I really hope people turn out.

“He's going to be performing his new single and we're also hoping that people can come for the festival as well.

“The fact he wants to give his support to an event such as this is fantastic.

“I spoke to him last night and he said there might be some of his relatives in the audience that he's never met.”

Darnell, who calls himself an “unstoppable lyricist and infectious melody maker”, returned to England toward the end of 2006 and was soon reunited with some of his old friends from his early years in the town.

He will open the festival at Suffolk New College at noon on Saturday before performing his new single shortly after.

The Ipswich Respect Festival, now in its fifth year, aims to stamp out prejudice and celebrate Ipswich's diverse community. It will begin with a parade through Ipswich town centre beginning at Debenhams at 11am, prior to a series of performances at the festival venue at Suffolk New College.

- See tomorrow's Evening Star for the full programme of Ipswich Respect Festival events.

- Are you pleased Darnell Swallow is making his return to Ipswich? Will you be attending the Respect Festival? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, Press House, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail

- DARNELL Swallow's connection to Ipswich goes back to the early 1980s.

His mum Bernadette Mathis was 16 when Darnell was born. He spent the first few months of his life in Ipswich Hospital after being born premature.

Mrs Mathis was born in Middlesex but moved to Ipswich with her family when she was young and the family lived in Hood Road in the Greenwich area of town. Later they moved to a townhouse in the Stoke Park area.

Mrs Mathis, an intensive care unit nurse, and Darnell, left England to live in the US when he was aged six.

Mrs Mathis lives just outside of the US city of St Louis with Darnell's two sisters Sharice, 19, and Patrice, 17.

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