Lord of the Rings star Sir Ian McKellen was the guest of honour at the launch of the third Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans History Month in central London on Saturday.

Organised by the LGBT education campaigning group, Schools Out, the annual event was initiated in 2005 as their first major project after the repeal of the controversial Section 28 five years earlier.

Schools Out has been campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans equality in education since 1974.

Sir Ian came out of the closet in 1988 in protest at the Thatcher govenment’s homophobic Section 28 of the Local Government Act, which prohibited local authorities from promoting homosexual lifestyles as valid.

The actor lauded Schools Out for their work in promoting LGBT equality in education, and also praised the diverse and dynamic audience attending the launch, which included teachers, academics and activists.

The event, held in Drill Hall theatre in London, is fast becoming one of the major events in the LGBT and education calendars, and this year attracted several high profile guest performers, including Mz Fontaine, the first openly-gay lesbian rapper.

There was a sizable input from young people at this year’s event, with the transgendered youth group Sci:dentity, lesbian performance troupe Lik:T and the Albert Kennedy Trust all performing on stage.

Indeed, youth was a central theme to this year’s conference, with various LGBT youth groups taking part in the debates and the QA segment with the guest panel.

Schools Out co-chair Sue Sanders was particularly pleased by the success of the event:

“The conference just gets better every year,” she said.

“The young people – in the audience and on the stage – were awesome and inspiring. We were honoured that Sir Ian could join us, and it was so sweet of him to stay and chat to everyone afterwards.”