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Hollywood star Sir Ian McKellen visits Walsall school

By David Cosgrove | Entertainment | Published: | Last Updated:

Hollywood star Sir Ian McKellen inspired students and staff alike during a top-secret visit to a Black Country school.

Left to right: Qamar Riaz, headteacher of West Walsall E-ACT Academy; Sir Ian McKellen; Jane Millward, deputy chief executive officer of E-ACT.

The A-list actor, best known for playing Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, visited a school which has been recognised for its inclusivity and efforts to tackle discrimination.

Sir Ian, 78, addressed a packed assembly hall at West Walsall E-ACT Academy before hosting a private audience with a smaller group of pupils.

The school, in Primley Avenue, has been awarded Stonewall 'school champion' status – one of a handful across the country honoured for promoting 'inclusivity, acceptance and combatting discrimination of every kind including homophobia'.

Only headteacher Qamar Riaz and a select few others were aware of Sir Ian's visit in advance.

The star met the academy's leadership team before addressing the students and staff during a one-hour speech.

Sir Ian spoke of his struggles growing up a gay man in conservative Britain, and how he only came out as gay at the age of 48.

He also spoke about his extensive work with Stonewall – he is a founder member and school role model at the charity – as well as wider issues around civil rights and his experience of meeting Nelson Mandela.

Stonewall is the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights charity in Europe.

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West Walsall E-ACT's school champion status was confirmed in December.

Headteacher Mr Riaz said: "I am proud of the work we do at West Walsall E-ACT Academy to develop our students’ understanding around equality, linked to one of our whole academy values of ‘goodness’.

"This visit and our partnership with Stonewall and other organisations is a testament to our resolute commitment to offering our students an exceptional quality of education rooted in growth and personal development.”

David Cosgrove

By David Cosgrove
Chief Reporter - @davidcosgrove_

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