Sir Ian McKellen charms Derry audience at Magee
The acclaimed and award winning actor Sir Ian McKellen has said he is “privileged” to have received an honorary doctorate from the University of Ulster as he shares their ethos.
Hollywood legend Sir Ian - now synonymous with the Tolkien wizard character, Gandalf - delivered the annual Chancellor’s Lecture in the Great Hall of the University of Ulster’s Magee campus, to an enraptured audience on Sunday.
He said that he was especially delighted to receive the honorary doctorate from the University’s Chancellor Dr James Nesbitt, his friend and co-star in Peter Jackson’s epic film ‘The Hobbit’.
Introducing him, Dr Nesbitt described Sir Ian as “a man I have admired throughout my acting career. He has become a good friend and colleague as we have tried to bring some order to Middle Earth”.
Dr Nesbitt added he was “totally honoured” Sir Ian agreed to deliver the Chancellor’s Lecture, the first he has been able to attend in person because of the hectic filming schedule in New Zealand for ‘The Hobbit’.
The Chancellor also made reference to the opportunities open to Derry as the City of Culture which he described as “endless”.
He said the University of Ulster will continue to grow with the city, adding: “We must convince the Northern Ireland Assembly and others to increase student numbers to this campus”.
In delivering the Chancellor’s Lecture, Dr Sir Ian McKellen was following in the footsteps of distinguished jurist Baroness Kennedy, respected journalist and broadcaster Jon Snow, the then Irish President Mary McAleese, the Lord Chief Justice for Northern Ireland Sir Declan Morgan and the Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
In his lecture on the theme, “Acting and Activism”, Sir Ian said he was “thrilled” to visit Derry, the birthplace of playwright George Farquhar, who he said had written his favourite play both to see and to act in.
He added that in Northern Ireland he was “in a sense coming home” as his ancestry can be traced back to 19th century Ballymena.
He then focussed with considerable passion, on the issues of religious and homophobic prejudice and the difficulties faced by homosexuals for many decades.
Dr McKellen said: “Thanks to every gay person in public and non-public life who has come out. Thanks to those politicians not in thrall to those constituents who cling to the status quo and who, given referenda, would happily reinstate capital punishment and the beating of children.
“Thanks most perhaps to the cherished national belief that an Englishman’s – and an Irishman’s – home is his castle and that the state has no business interfering in their bedrooms. Every rotten anti-gay law has been repealed, shaken down from the constitutional tree. So complete is the reversal, that we even have the anomaly of civil partnerships which are not available to heterosexuals and uniquely benefit the gays!”
As MPs prepared to vote on same sex legislation in the House of Commons, Dr McKellen added: “The Heavens have not fallen in – though some blame Tsunami and earthquakes, even 9/11, on God’s response to advances in gay freedom.”
Vice Chancellor Professor Richard Barnett said it was a great coup for the University to be able to salute one of the greatest actors on stage and screen and campaigners for gay equality.
“Sir Ian’s performances have guaranteed him a place in the canon of English stage and film actors. But Ian Murray McKellen is also a man of deep personal conscience. He is known as a voice of liberty”.
Professor Barnett added “We are delighted to be able to honour him today at our Magee campus and to have him deliver the annual Chancellor’s Lecture for the first time in the UK City of Culture.”
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Weather for Derry
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: South east