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Ian McKellen on Stage raises funds for young people as Theatre by the Lake celebrates 20th birthday

Ian McKellen meeting the audience and collecting donations post-show. Photo by Tom Kay

Sir Ian McKellen graced the Main House stage at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake on Tuesday 20 August with a special fundraising performance which has raised over £19,300 for the theatre and took place the day after TBTL’s 20th birthday.

The show was part of Sir Ian’s 80th birthday tour which has seen him perform his solo show on 80 stages across the UK, with the aim of raising funds for host theatres.

Proceeds from the evening, raised through TBTL’s ticket and programme sales and post-show donations, will go towards the theatre’s work with young people in the locality.

Liz Stevenson, Artistic Director of Theatre by the Lake, said: “Already this year we’ve welcomed many schools, community groups and youth groups to the theatre, and visited them in the local area – and we look forward to doing much more of this thanks to the success of this special event.

“We are hugely grateful to Ian for all his work in supporting theatre and performance in the UK – and for choosing TBTL to be part of his 80th birthday tour which just happened to coincide with our 20th birthday. And we are hugely grateful to the audience who joined us on Tuesday, and in doing so have helped to raise these funds to support our work with young people.”

Ian McKellen meeting the audience and collecting donations post-show. Photo by Tom Kay.

The show charted Ian’s journey as an actor, from a young Bolton boy falling in love with the theatre, to performing at Cambridge and cutting his acting teeth in repertory theatre. It also included snippets from some of his most celebrated performances, from Hamlet and Prospero through to Gandalf. He also talked about his love for the theatre, emphasising the joy of live performance and the sense of sharing something special and immediate alongside fellow audience members and also with performers.

He said: “Live theatre has always been thrilling to me, as an actor and in the audience. Growing up in Lancashire, I was grateful to those companies who toured beyond London and I’ve always enjoyed repaying that debt by touring up and down the country myself. As a theatre-mad lad in Lancashire I used to see the travelling Century Theatre, which ended up permanently on Derwentwater. So my TBTL début is in gratitude for those long-ago productions and for the other times when I have seen the company at work in Keswick. The Lake District is my favourite part of the country, which is another reason I wanted to bring you my new show. It’s a great joy to me, when I’m far away, to know there is this wonderful theatre in this wonderful place.”

After the performance Ian personally met with audience members as he stood at the exit to the theatre with a bucket to request donations.

The vast majority of tickets were drawn through a ballot system but the theatre also allocated a number of free tickets to local community groups including CFM Cash for Kids, West Cumbria Hospice at Home, Carlisle Youth Zone, the Calvert Trust, West Cumbria Carers and Ewanrigg Local Trust and ENTRA. Mark Gibbs from Carlisle Youth Zone said: “It was great to experience the craft of such a celebrated actor; it’s not often one gets wows from teenagers.” Melinda Scott from West Cumbria Hospice at Home added: “The patients that we supported last night and myself thoroughly enjoyed the night. The evening enabled the people that we support, time to step out of what can be a medicalised world.”

For more information about getting involved with TBTL’s community work, or to find out about supporting the theatre, please contact [email protected].

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