BURNLEY-born actor Sir Ian McKellen has welcomed a new exhibition charting the history of gay people in the town.

Burnley Library is holding the event to mark Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) History Month, which takes place every February in the UK.

The exhibition will have a special focus on the town's unique part in gay culture.

In July 1967 the library held a controversial public meeting to debate the issues around a homosexual lifestyle.

And it will also show how much things have changed in the past 40 years.

Sir Ian, one of the country's leading gay rights campaigners, has welcomed the move by sending a message of support.

He said: "Although I was born in Burnley, I was not fortunate enough to be brought up there.

"Still, Wigan and Bolton, where I lived till I was 19, were reasonable substitutes!

"For too long gay people have been invisible among the general population, getting on with their lives in their own way and only noticed when others chose to brand them as queer' or unnatural' as if being different was a crime.

"Throughout the country attitudes are changing for the better and it has been heartening that government has of late accepted that homosexuality should never be a bar to contributing to the nation.

"However, the history of gay people in UK has not been well recorded and it is important that it should be.

"There is a lot to be revealed and for us all to be proud of.

"As patron of LGBT History Month, I've seen how celebrating individual experience can help support cohesion within the community at large.

"This exhibition will do the same for the people of Burnley to whom I send my best wishes."

The exhibition will be at Burnley Library until the end of February.