Interview: Waiting for Godot with Captain Picard

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Last month gay star and acting legend Sir Ian McKellen spent an evening raising funds for vulnerable lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans teenagers.

As a patron the Albert Kennedy Trust, Sir Ian is a strong supporter of their work with kids who are not being supported at home.

At the Village Drinks event, which raised more than £4,000 for AKT, he took a moment to speak to about his plans for 2009 and why he is visiting schools to promote Stonewall’s work against homophobic bullying. How long have you been patron of the Albert Kennedy Trust?

I have been involved for five years now. Not very much involved, I don’t know that I’ve got any official connection with it, but they are right where it’s happening.

It’s just depressing that there’s still some need for it.

But the fact they have got good relationships with local authorities and social services is obviously a huge improvement.

How do you feel when you look at the situation for gay teenagers now compared to the time that you have lived through?

There’s been a big change in society’s attitudes at an official level towards being gay compared to 20 years ago, when the age of consent was 21.

These kids couldn’t go into the Armed Forces, there were all sorts of things they couldn’t do.

There has been a big change. People can only do so much – they have done a lot in a rather rapid space of time.

The impression can easily be in London that everything is over and done with and has all been sorted out.

But actually, where it matters it should take much longer than that, so in the meantime AKT is there to help.

But there is lots being done which will affect teenagers in school, when you read Section 28 from two or three years ago, schools are really trying to make up for lost time. I have been visiting a few recently.

There are always faith schools, and attitudes die hard in certain areas of religion, so regrettably probably the trust will be needed far into the future, but for the odd cases which go against the trend, which I think generally is to be more liberal and understanding.

What is the main impression from your public school visits?

I’ve been to some very good schools, I’ve been to a faith school and I’ve been to comprehensives, I’m going to a couple in the North of England tomorrow.

Actually a lot of the work that schools do is being run by the kids.

You go to schools and you find that the head girl is an open lesbian, so she has got an awful lot to tell the teachers about who come from a different generation, and are much more circumspect and scared frankly.

But I haven’t been to a single school where any parent has ever complained about the work that schools are doing; compare that with section 28 from three years ago.

A kid in school having a bad time with his parents ought to be able to go to a teacher and get some comfort and advice. Where else would they go?

When can we next see you on stage?

I am doing Waiting for Godot at the Theatre Royal Haymarket with Patrick Stewart.

It is a difficult play ….

50 years ago people used to say it was difficult play. If you sit in a comfy seat watching some good actors it is fine – very entertaining!

We are doing that for eight weeks on the road, then it comes to London at the end of April.

Click here for more information about the Albert Kennedy Trust.