One of the biggest names from stage and screen talked to students about his life and the challenges he faced.
Sir Ian McKellen – star of Lord of the Rings and X-Men, among other things – spoke movingly to students and staff at Whitley Bay High School on Thursday, May 14.
Representing the Gay Rights charity Stonewall, Sir Ian talked about how he became involved in gay rights in the late 80s and has since campaigned to help achieve many of the key rights which make Great Britain one of the ‘freest and most liberal countries in the world with regard to equality’.
He toured the school to see students in lessons, ate lunch with groups of pupils from different year groups, and then spoke at an assembly and a workshop.
Sir Ian talked about how growing up he never spoke to anyone at school about sexuality and was astonished to discover later in his life that his best school friend was also gay.
Part of his mission now is to encourage gay and lesbian students to see ‘coming out’ as a precious moment worth celebrating.
Steve Wilson, headteacher at Whitley Bay High School, said: “Today has been a magical moment in this school’s proud history.
“Tolerance and inclusion are at the heart of our ethos and I felt touched to see the way students were so affected by Sir Ian’s message.
“Credit is due especially to Michael Wright (Head of Year 10) who arranged the visit with Alex Newton, of Stonewall.
“We really appreciate them taking the time to come here today.”
After posing for numerous selfies, high fives and autographs, Sir Ian joked with the students who are due to take their exams this summer: “One thing is for sure – if you haven’t worked hard, revised carefully and got yourself fully prepared I can tell you ‘You shall not pass!’”