Unsung Heroes 2020: Barrie Knight
Unsung Heroes 2020, published in IQ 95 just before Christmas, is a tribute to some of the organisations and individuals who have gone above and beyond to help others during a year unlike any other – be that through their efforts to protect the industry, or helping those who were in desperate need.
We turned to the readership and asked you to nominate worthy causes and personalities for consideration as the inaugural members of our Unsung Heroes awards. Now, IQ can reveal the dozen most-voted Unsung Heroes of 2020, continuing with Big Knight In’s Barrie Knight, who follows Sandra Beckmann and Tom Koperek.
A specialist in security and artist liaisons, Barrie Knight is a well known figure around the world, with regular clients including Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason, Peter Gabriel, Ronan Keating and events such as Isle of Wight Festival. His efforts throughout lockdown have ensured that tens of thousands of people in London have not gone hungry, following an accidental encounter in the street.
“I do an occasional club night called Big Knight Out, so when Covid hit we organised an online event called the Big Knight In, which went out to 11,000 people,” he recalls. “The day after the show, I was walking past a local school, St Paul’s, where my friend Roy Edwards works, and he was there, feeding the children of key workers. I was a free-school-dinners kid myself, so after chatting to Roy, I started making sandwiches for the kids and went along to the school to help out.
“When I was there, one of the parents thanked me for feeding them and it turned out some of the kids were taking the food home to share with their families because it was the only regular food they were getting.”
Determined to help as many families as possible, Knight hit on the idea of a JustGiving page to ask Big Knight In attendees to donate money for the food drive. Within an hour of that going live, it had raised £5,000 (€5,565). In total, supporters raised close to £9,000, but Knight wasn’t finished there. “I asked Joe Lock, the manager of our local Morrisons [supermarket], if we could do some kind of deal with them, and straight off, they gave us six pallets of food, free of charge, to help out.”
“The kids were taking the food home to share with their families because it was the only regular food they were getting”
Knight also leveraged his showbiz connections to solicit support from the likes of Ronan Keating, Peter Gabriel and Annie Lennox.
As media coverage spread, Morrisons pledged to match the donations raised by the Big Knight In and, as a result, the initiative was extended to provide a second school and food banks across London with bulk orders of provisions, as well as women’s refuges, soup kitchens and projects supporting the elderly – all of which needed help as the lockdown continued and people lost their jobs. The scheme ended when the schools reopened, post-lockdown, with Knight admitting he was overwhelmed by the response, which to date has helped more than 38,000 people across London.
“It’s shameful that people in one of the world’s richest cities can be starving; we’re going to do our best to prevent that,” he adds.
Paying tribute to Knight, Peter Gabriel says: “There are two words that bring a smile to my face and to the faces of everyone I work with. The first is ‘Barrie’ and the second ‘Knight’.
“Barrie is as close as I have ever come to meeting a knight in shining armour”
“There are many knights of the realm that have bought their knighthoods with political contributions. Our Barrie is as close as I have ever come to meeting a knight in shining armour – a natural knight always ready to dive in, like a superhero, whenever he sees people in trouble . His recent campaign to provide food for many thousands of people is just the latest in a very long line of selfless and effective acts.
“On tour in the US, our crew bus was involved in a serious accident, with crew thrown out into the road. While most crew woke up stunned, Barrie was straight into action, pulling injured crew members out to safety in case the bus caught fire. The young driver was trapped by the metal that had been pushed into him by the collision; Barrie didn’t leave until he had released the injured driver and got him out safely .
“I have never seen Barrie down. He is always positive and never has a bad word for any of us. I feel very lucky to have worked with him and I really hope all his generosity and concern for others might allow him one day to be rewarded and recognised as a real knight of the realm, which he thoroughly deserves.”
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