Youths lifted by Hollywood star power

Burnley Youth Theatres Youth Board with a letter of support from Sir Ian McKellen. (s)
Burnley Youth Theatres Youth Board with a letter of support from Sir Ian McKellen. (s)
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It was a magical moment for Burnley Youth Theatre when a “legendary” wizard of an actor vowed to be its champion.

These young thespians have no need for the spells of sorcerers like Merlin or Harry Potter to keep the magic of story-telling alive - because they have Hollywood superstar, Sir Ian McKellen, fighting their corner.

Sir Ian McKellen. (s)

Sir Ian McKellen. (s)

That was the oath made by the Burnley-born actor, AKA Gandalf the wizard, when he sent them a letter of support with a £1000 donation towards theatre activities last month.

“He’s a legend and everyone is stunned that someone so iconic would send support to us here in Burnley,” said Executive Director of BYT, Leroy Philbrook.

“It gave us all a lift. Our members are so excited and one even said they started shaking when they saw our photo of his letter on Facebook.

“It’s had more than 10,000 views and 200 likes in two days and has been shared about 60 times.

“It shows how famous he is and having someone with that much experience in film, TV and theatre say he will back us makes us proud.”

The theatre received the letter after Leroy wrote to several famous artistes with links to the town to ask for help with its benefactor scheme.

The film star replied to say he would be “very happy to support the work of Burnley Youth Theatre” and sends his love to everyone involved.

The youngsters have also found a champion in BBC writer, Joy Wilkinson, a former BYT member.

And you don’t need magical powers to see the transformative effect of the group’s activities - and thus any donations - in children’s lives.

“Our mission is to creatively inspire young people and help them build confidence and friendships,” said Leroy. “Young people feel comfortable here. They own it. This is their home.”

To become a benefactor, please sign up at