Shropshire Star

Sir Michael Palin returns to Shrewsbury to visit former school

Legendary broadcaster, comedian, writer and actor Sir Michael Palin has visited his old school in Shropshire.

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Sir Michael Palin during the visit to his former school

The former Monty Python star attended Shrewsbury School from 1957 to 1961, where he boarded in Rigg’s Hall.

During his latest visit he went back to look at his former boarding house, officially opened the school’s Barnes Theatre and hosted ‘An Evening with Sir Michael Palin’.

After dropping into geography and history lessons, Sir Michael met with school chronicler and his former school tutor, Dr David Gee, whose career at Shrewsbury spans 50 years.

The pair discussed Sir Michael’s time at school, before heading over to the archives to view his old school reports.

Sir Michael ate lunch with geography pupils and 'Sir Michael Palin Scholars', recipients of an all-rounder scholarship that was named after him in 2016.

He spoke of his pathway to performing and his love of adventure, before visiting his former boarding house to officially open the building following a recent refurbishment.

Sir Michael then officially opened the school’s Barnes Theatre, which,thanks to a donation from the late Sir David Barnes and other donors, features a 240-seat auditorium and two state-of-the-art dance studios.

The theatre was filled with guests, including Lady Barnes, who joined Sir Michael to officially open the space.

The theatre was then treated to displays of performing arts, with director of drama Dr Helen Brown adding: “It was wonderful to be able to welcome one of our most famous Old Salopian actors back to the theatre to showcase the talents of the current generation of Shrewsbury students. I was very proud of the range and quality of all the pieces performed.”

The visit cumulated with An Evening with Sir Michael Palin, where he spoke to a packed-out Alington Hall, using the very stage he performed on as a pupil.

A question and answer session, following his presentation in the evening, gave the audience an opportunity to quiz him about his time as a broadcaster and as part of Monty Python, with Sir Michael revealing that the famous ‘Knights who say ‘Ni’’ sketch from Monty Python and the Holy Grail was inspired by a former Shrewsbury School teacher.

Speaking about the visit he said: “It’s very nice to be back because this is a very important part of one’s life.

“Shrewsbury encourages independent voices and independent ways of looking at things, allowing pupils to make their mind and have their own voice.

“It’s a terrific honour to be here today to open the theatre. It is so important that Shrewsbury does regard arts, the theatre and music with such importance in the life of the school, and I think some great things will come of it and it makes me even more proud of the school I was at.”

At the conclusion of the evening Sir Michael was presented with a book that was filled with reports, achievements and pictures from his time at Shrewsbury.

Headmaster Leo Winkley said: “It was wonderful to welcome Sir Michael Palin back to Shrewsbury.

“He gave so generously of his time, meeting with pupils and staff, touring the site, visiting old haunts, such as his boarding house, Rigg’s Hall. He spoke enthusiastically about recent developments and the enduring spirit of the school.

“Sir Michael epitomises all that is great about a Shrewsbury education – the desire to go out into the world, connect positively with others and make a difference."

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