Sir Ian McKellen was honoured with the Outstanding Contribution to British Theatre prize at the UK Theatre Awards on Sunday (09.10.16).

Sir Ian McKellen

Sir Ian McKellen

The 77-year-old actor - best known for his roles in the 'X-Men' and 'Lord Of The Rings' film franchises - was recognised for "championing diversity and contribution to the British theatre" at the ceremony held at London's Guildhall.

During his acceptance speech, McKellen recalled his childhood memories of going to local theatre productions which inspired his dream of stepping on stage himself.

McKellen - whose theatre career has spanned six decades and seen him perform at theatres all over the UK - said: "If it hadn't been for those local theatres, where I did my first theatregoing, I wouldn't be an actor, of course not."

Previous recipients of the accolade include Sir Matthew Bourne, Timothy West and Prunella Scales.

During the evening, Vanessa Redgrave was presented with The Gielgud Award For Excellence In The Dramatic Arts at the UK.

The 79-year-old actress gave a modest acceptance speech but used the platform to stress how much she believes society needs the arts.

'The Butler' star - who has appeared in over 30 productions on London's West End - said: "The arts keep society sane and boy do we need to be kept sane at the moment! If I've helped along the way, I'm glad."

The Gielgud Award - named after the late great English actor Sir John Gielgud - has been handed out sporadically since 1996 and other winners include Sir Derek Jacobi, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Kenneth Branagh, McKellen and Vanessa's sister Lynn Redgrave.

McKellen's passion for the theatre shows no sign of dissipating.

He can currently be seen alongside his great friend Sir Patrick Stewart in the West End production of Harold Pinter's 'No Man's Land'

The legendary British thespians already acted in the Broadway version of Pinter's classic absurdist drama at The Cort Theatre, from 2013 to 2014.