REVERED thespian Sir Ian McKellen came home to talk to hundreds of Wigan youngsters about bullying.
The world-famous actor, perhaps best known for his role as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings triology, mesmerized large audiences at both The Deanery and Rose Bridge High Schools this week.
Sir Ian is a regular visitor the town in which he was brought up and the Deanery is just a stone’s throw from the home of his childhood in Parsons Walk. But he wasn’t back here for a trip down Memory Lane: rather to broadcast a powerful message about persecution, particularly in relation to homophobia.
During his trip to The Deanery he was supported by both the Rector of Wigan, Rev Ray Hutchinson, and Anglican Diocesan Director of Education, John Richardson.
Sir Ian chatted to staff about his work with gay rights and equality movement Stonewall before addressing around 700 students from Years 10, 11 and the Sixth Form.
Headteacher Stephen Brierley said: “He talked about the issues of homophobic bullying and his own experiences of being a gay man in public life. He was asked whether he had himself been the victim of homosexual discrimination and answered that he had once been in line for a part and then it was suddenly turned down after it was discovered that he was gay.
“As soon as he walked into the hall everyone broke into spontaneous applause and he kept 700 14 to 17-year-olds in the metaphorical palm of his hand, which is no mean feat.”
Sir Ian also captivated everyone with tales from Middle Earth and he praised the theatre scene in Wigan for inspiring him and urged would-be actors to sign up.
He said: “I have been acting for 50 years - 60 if you count my first performances in Wigan as a boy.” He also confirmed he was expecting to be in New Zealand for a considerable time playing “my favourite role - Galdalf the Grey.”
Sir Ian told Deanery pupils that he didn’t admit his sexuality for a long time as he wondered “Would I be cast as Romeo if people thought I fancied Mercutio more than Juliet?”
He also praised the school for promoting tolerance and reducing bullying.