It’s not every day that Hollywood royalty, a knight of the realm, a Shakespearian colossus and the last of the Middle-earth wizards drops in to your school.
Sir Ian McKellen is all of these – and an equality campaigner to boot – so when he called in to two York schools on Monday (October 13), there was understandable excitement.
The multi-award-winning star visited both Fulford School and York High School.
Internationally famous for playing Gandalf in the Lord Of The Rings films and Magento in the X-Men franchise, Sir Ian visited York High School as a representative of Stonewall.
He helped found the organisation which is committed to gaining equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and fighting homophobia.
— David Ellis (@dbellis13) October 13, 2014
“Sir Ian told pupils about his life as a gay man and how he had battled over the years to change attitudes and gain equality for gay and lesbian people,” wrote headteacher David Ellis on the school website.
“His stories of his own challenges in coming out, and the abuse and suffering that still can exist were both moving and inspirational.”
In June York High School deputy head Rod Sims was invited to make the opening address at York Pride. The school actively works to ensure that pupils or staff, whether straight or gay, feel “welcomed and comfortable”.
Sir Ian certainly made an impression at the school. “What a fabulous day it was,” the school Facebook page recorded.
“He addressed over 300 pupils in a series of assemblies, spent time with the year 11 GCSE RE group as well as the Shakespeare Club.
“His visit was enjoyed by all staff and pupils.”
That afternoon, Sir Ian spent time at Fulford School. “This was to recognise the work that the school has undertaken to combat homophobic bullying in the last year and to launch Fulford School’s commitment to the Stonewall NoBystanders campaign this year,” the school website explained.
Sir Ian met with the school council and members of York Youth Parliament, gave two assemblies to Years 7-10 and hosted a question and answer session for Year 11 and the Sixth Form.
“It has been a phenomenally memorable and exciting day for all at the school and the visit has made a significant and lasting contribution to the school’s ongoing work in tackling all forms of bullying,” the school said.
‘I got to meet him’
For two mornings running York student Daniel Davidson, 11, appeared on Chris Evans’ Radio 2 breakfast show.
On Monday morning, he explained what he was going to do that day for the first time – perform Shakespeare in front of Sir Ian McKellen.
The next day Daniel was back on the airwaves explaining what happened. How did he get on? Have a listen…