Bolton School Grand Reunion Weekend and a vist from former pupil, Sir Ian McKellen

A group from the class of 1963

A group from the class of 1963 - Credit: Archant

More than 1,000 alumni returned to Bolton School for a Grand Reunion Weekend, part of the anniversary celebrations, which are being held this year to commemorate the centenary of the Bolton School Foundation, and in 2016 to mark the 500th anniversary of education in Bolton.

Sir Ian in the Great Hall

Sir Ian in the Great Hall - Credit: Archant

The event started with the 43rd annual Tillotson Lecture, which brought together the heads of four key Bolton institutions - Phil Gartside, chairman of Bolton Wanderers, Karen Edwards, chief executive of Bolton Lads’ and Girls’ Club, The Rt Revd Chris Edmondson, Bishop of Bolton, and Carole Swarbrick, the town’s mayor.

The following day saw friends and former pupils join in the annual Bursary Golf Day, held in wonderful sunshine at Bolton Golf Club. It was sponsored by Ravat and Ray Dental Care, and Barclays Bank also lent its support by matching the evening raffle takings. This year £4,057 was raised for the bursary fund.

The main event was the Grand Reunion itself with alumni who left the school in 1939 to recent leavers from the Class of 2015. Almost every era of the school’s history on the current site was represented.

There was even a hearty school lunch featuring puddings that many Old Boys and Old Girls remembered fondly. The weekend ended with a spectacular fireworks display.

Sir Ian’s a riot

Sir Ian McKellen returned to Bolton School to talk about the work of Stonewall, which campaigns for the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-sexual people.

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There was a buzz of excitement in the Great Hall, where the whole of the Boys’ Division heard Sir Ian take a walk down memory lane, as this was where he did some of his first acting, albeit without a microphone. He recalled rehearsing the title role in Shakespeare’s Henry V in 1957 before talking about his own experience of being gay at school, and the difficulty of discussing his sexuality when it was illegal.

He also spoke about bullying but the presentation ended with a hopeful message. ‘If the world is going to improve in the next 50 years as much as it has in the last 50, you’re going to have a great life.’

Sir Ian then answered a number of questions before performing a Shakespeare monologue, a section from Sir Thomas More, which is the only piece of writing in Shakespeare’s own hand. Speaking without a microphone, he strode down the centre aisle performing More’s speech to the mob as they rioted in London.

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