Sir Ian McKellen to open new gay rights exhibition in Manchester


    Sir Ian McKellen is set to opening a new exhibition in Manchester, to mark the 50th anniversary anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales.

    The 77-year-old Lord of The Rings star and LGBT activist grew up in nearby Wigan and will formally open the new exhibition, titled ‘Never Going Underground’, at the People’s History Museum, in Manchester, this month.

    Charting “the complex and compelling story of a long and often bumpy journey” towards gay equality in the UK, the exhibition opened to the public last week and runs until September 3 – exactly one day before the 60th anniversary of the publication of the Wolfenden report, which recommended that the British government decriminalise homosexuality.

    Sir Ian recently looked back on his own experiences of growing up gay in the era before decriminalisation, in the inaugural episode of our  new podcast series Attitude Heroes.

    Recalling life in Britain before being gay was made legal, the X-Men legend told us: “You did nothing in public to draw attention to yourself because you would be identifying yourself as a potential criminal. There was nowhere in the world where homosexuality was accepted. This is how the world was organised, gay people were subhuman.”

    After spending the first two decades of his career keeping his sexuality hidden from the public, McKellen came out as gay in 1988 in response to the Thatcher government’s Section 28 legislation, which banned the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools around the country.

    He later co-founded LGBT rights charity Stonewall before going on to become one of the UK’s most vocal LGBT+ rights campaigners.

    More information on the ‘Never Going Underground’ exhibition can be found here – and you can listen to Sir Ian in episode 1 of Attitude Heroes below. You can download and subscribe to the full series here.