Legendary Lord of the Rings actor gives inspirational talk to Hitchin pupils about LGBT equality

PUBLISHED: 10:54 13 March 2017 | UPDATED: 10:54 13 March 2017

Sir Ian McKellen performs his line from the Lord of the Rings films to students of The Priory School in Hitchin

Sir Ian McKellen performs his line from the Lord of the Rings films to students of The Priory School in Hitchin "You shall not pass!" during a talk on equality.

Danny Loo Photography 2017

Legendary actor Sir Ian McKellen visited a Hitchin school this week to talk to students about LGBT-related issues and the importance of having an inclusive community.

Sir Ian McKellen talks to students of The Priory School in Hitchin about equality.Sir Ian McKellen talks to students of The Priory School in Hitchin about equality.

Multi-award-winning Sir Ian visited The Priory School on Bedford Road on Tuesday, and spoke for an hour to nearly 300 students from a range of year groups after meeting head Geraint Edwards.

Sir Ian spoke passionately and honestly about his early life as a gay man living in London, and drew on his own experiences to highlight diversity, tolerance and inclusivity.

The legend of stage and screen, who has performed everything from Shakespeare to Coronation Street, became a worldwide icon when he played the wizard Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings. And he started his speech with a memorable delivery of his famous line from The Two Towers – ‘You Shall Not Pass!’.

In his inspirational talk to a spellbound audience he said: “I’m not here to talk about an actor, but rather to be here as a gay man.

Sir Ian McKellen answers questions from pupils of The Priory School in Hitchin about equality.Sir Ian McKellen answers questions from pupils of The Priory School in Hitchin about equality.

“It might be more interesting to hear about me growing up as a gay man in the north of England near Manchester when I was your age.

“When you’re gay it’s people tell you it’s ‘unnatural’ or ‘abnormal’. Being a homosexual at that age was actually against the law. It wasn’t a subject talked about at school.

“There were no famous people who were gay. It wasn’t even written about. The only time ‘queers’ were written about was in the dirty pages of the Sunday newspapers. I couldn’t talk to my parents or my sister about it, or at school.

“There were no books in the library about it. There was no internet. There were no clubs you could go to. You were absolutely on your own. And at that age you don’t want to be on your own, you want to be with friends. My best friend was gay – but I didn’t even know until 25 years later.”

Assistant head Katie Southall said: “Ian is such an inspirational man. We feel lucky to have been able to secure a visit from him, thanks to Stonewall. Diversity and inclusion is an integral part of our school and we’re privileged to have him.

“The message he delivered was so important, and we will continue the work we’ve started around LGBT support for our pupils.”

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