Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was honoured with a blue plaque outside his home in south London today.

A large crowd gathered to watch the unveiling of the plaque in Southwark and actor Sir Ian McKellen spoke at the ceremony.

Mr Tatchell, 58, received the honour for his work in human rights, although he is also known in the borough for campaigning on local issues.

The campaigner, who looked smart in a suit and purple tie, admitted he was “a bit embarrassed” at the honour, which is usually accorded to people after they have died.

The plaque reads: “Peter Tatchell. Born 1952. Campaigner for human rights, gay freedom and social justice. Lived Here. Voted by the people.”

Sir Ian called Mr Tatchell “my hero” and added: “As an actor, I admire the chutzpah and showbiz nature of Peter’s campaigning. It is absolutely sensational that there is a plaque here.”

He added: “We don’t have the energy, far-sightedness and bravery of this individual. If we did, the world would be a better place. I couldn’t be a stronger supporter of him.”

Mr Tatchell said: “It is a great honour. I blushed. I want to express my extreme gratitude. I am gratified but a little embarrassed. You usually get a plaque when you’re dead but I’m very much alive.”

The Australian-born activist, who has been campaigning for 30 years, added that there was a trend towards longevity in his family and hoped he would keep going until for another 30 years.

He also thanked his supporters and said: “The greatest honour has been to work with so many brave activists here and around the world.”

Also present at the ceremony was Bermondsey Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes, who won his seat in 1983 against Mr Tatchell, who stood as a Labour candidate.

Mr Hughes paid tribute to Mr Tatchell’s work, citing his campaigns across the world. He said: “We are very grateful that you settled in Southwark.”

The plaque was also given a secular blessing by out gay Catholic priest Bernard Lynch.