Gallery: BB star Darnell back in town

BIG Brother star Darnell Swallow paid a special visit to Ipswich to launch the annual Respect festival.

Naomi Cassidy

BIG Brother star Darnell Swallow paid a special visit to Ipswich to launch the annual Respect festival.

A large crowd, mainly consisting of teenage girls, turned up at Suffolk New College on Saturday to see the reality television star return to the town of his birth to open the festival, which promotes racial harmony.

Following a small parade through town, the festival, now in its fifth year, was launched at noon as Darnell, 26, made as short speech to a crowd of cheering fans.

He also gave a special performance of his new single, Shonin, to kick start his nationwide tour and sang two other tracks about his time in the Big Brother house.

The singer and songwriter emerged from the Big Brother 9 house on the final night of the 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.

Some of his family members turned up for the event to give him their support.

Following his performance, he signed t-shirts and autographs for scores of excited youngsters.

Darnell said: “It was really awesome. I had so much fun and there are so many nice folk here.

“I have been busy in the recording studio since coming out of the house. I want to create some longevity out of being in the house, whether it is through music, youth work or presenting.

“It is weird being back here. I passed Crown Pools and wanted to go in for a swim.”

Mayor of Ipswich David Hale and Ipswich MP Chris Mole also said a few words to open the festival and live music was performed by various groups throughout the rest of the day. There were plenty of other activities to get stuck into, including face painting, an inflatable gladiators game, and circus workshops.

Information stalls from about 40 community organisations and charities filled the hall, with representatives from The Refugee Council and The Suffolk Foundation.