Popular actor Sir Ian McKellen made a surprise visit to a Lincoln school to talk about his career and campaigning for gay rights.
McKellen, best known for his role in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies as Gandalf the wizard, visited William Farr Church of England Comprehensive, but it was kept a secret from staff and pupils until his arrival.
While at the school, he also opened new English classrooms at the school.
He was accompanied by staff from campaign group Stonewall, a charity which helps schools with confronting and tackling homophobia.
The school was chosen by McKellen due to its focus on inclusivity and dealing with prejudice and is a Stonewall Champion School.
He spoke to children studying Key Stage 4 and 5, as well as A Level students, about his roles in films and campaigning against section 28 of the Local Government Act.
The law states that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. The law was repealed in 2003.
The legislation was what lead McKellen to state openly that he was gay, and has been an active campaigner since.
He told students his biggest regret was not telling his parents about his sexuality. He came out to his stepmother hours before a BBC interview discussing sexuality, but she said she had known for 35 years.
He said: “To be gay, is to be different, is to be honest. What’s natural is to be different, not the same, it is not the nature of life to be the same.”
He advised students thinking of coming out to talk to people they trust first, and to not necessarily tell both friends or family at the same time.
Headteacher of William Farr, Andy Stones, said: “It was a fantastic surprise for both the staff and the students.
“Sir Ian spoke very eloquently and his stories really had an impact on the students. It will be a day to remember for many of us.”
McKellen also made a surprise visit to LSST this week, also to discuss his career and his campaigning.