SHE’S trodden the boards and been a star of the silver screen in an acting career lasting more than 60 years.
So it was fitting that Sheila Hancock CBE opened the new £750,000 theatre at Havant Academy.
The grandmother-of-eight, who was born on the Isle of Wight, had the young audience hanging on her every word as she spoke of her life in drama and implored them to always believe in their own abilities.
She said acting was not as glamorous as some might think.
‘I was filming last week and I started at six in the morning and finished at eight at night,’ she said. ‘It was freezing cold.
‘One scene I was wearing a nightie in the middle of a field and it was less than zero.’
She told children to build their own inner confidence to achieve their dreams.
She said: ‘The most important thing in life is self-respect and that’s hopefully what you are going to learn here.
‘Everybody in the world has a talent for something.
‘The happy people I know are people who have worked hard to develop the talent that they have.’
Ms Hancock, whose television credits include EastEnders and who starred in films Three Men and a Little Lady and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, was beaming as she listened to the singing talents of pupils performing This Love by Maroon 5, and You’ve Got A Friend.
Ms Hancock, who is now a Friend of Havant Academy and will continue to support the school, encouraged children to go to university.
She said her family would never have had the money to send to her to university.
‘Do try to go to university, you will never regret it,’ she said, adding ‘Come to Portsmouth!’ – the university where she was chancellor until this year.
Ms Hancock was given a tour of the school’s facilities, which now include a large ‘master class’ able to accommodate 90 children and literacy rooms.
The academy is half-way through a £10m refurbishment.
Principal Julie Taylor said: ‘You have somebody there who has such experience of life and is able to connect with young people and inspire them – that’s what she’s done this afternoon.’