Middlesbrough is where my heart is - definitely. I grew up in the Grove Hill area of town and left when I was 17 to chase the dream and travel the world with my music. I never dreamed I would be invited back to receive an honorary doctorate in higher education. I am very proud of that.
I feel special to be part of Teesside University. The doctorate was conferred very close to my birthday last year and was the nicest present I could ever have.
It was a proud day for the North and for Teesside when the institution won the Times Higher Education University of the Year Award 2009 against tough competition - a wonderful achievement.
I feel tremendously honoured to be part of Teesside - an academic institution with internationally recognised prowess right in the heart of Middlesbrough. I think its success reflects the wonderful things going on in my home town.
Middlesbrough is experiencing a renaissance: it is becoming a significant force in the North East while competing on the world stage for educational success. The achievements of the university go hand in hand with the success of the town.
Middlesbrough is attracting students from across the country as well as local people who have recognised that the best facilities are right under their noses.
Local investment in education has been exceptional. The university's £120 million campus has created a town centre full of modern facilities and stunning buildings - a new landscape of learning.
Highlights include the national Institute of Digital Innovation - a £10 million investment in the bright young things who will create the digital wizardry of the future ... these guys will lead the way for the UK economy in the 21st century.
Every time I visit Middlesbrough I am struck by the huge changes taking place there: I think it is high time people opened their eyes to what it is really like.
Middlesbrough will most definitely capitalise on these successes. It is a town made up of people who are resourceful and entrepreneurial, a town that makes the most of its assets, a town that has had to reinvent itself to survive.
In some ways, the Middlesbrough of today is barely recognisable as the place I grew up, but it will always be home - you never forget your roots.
It really is a special place. There's something about the light and the air there that reminds me of my childhood. It is alive with exciting developments, regeneration projects, possibilities.
Middlesbrough is a town on the up and is a vibrant and exciting place to be.
Education is the greatest gift anyone can receive, and having such a prestigious university at Middlesbrough's heart has definitely had a beneficial effect on the town.
My mantra is: "When you know more, you can do more." Teesside University inspires minds. Teesside rocks!