Sir Ian McKellen will be honoured for his work championing diversity and his commitment to performing on stage when he is given the outstanding contribution to British Theatre prize at the UK Theatre Awards.

Sir Ian’s career has spanned more than six decades and seen him perform at theatres around the country and he will join Sir Matthew Bourne, Timothy West and Prunella Scales as recipients of the award.

Sir Ian McKellen attending the Park Theatre Gala Dinner, at Stoke Newington Town Hall in London.(Matt Crossick/PA)

At the ceremony, which will be compered by Lesley Manville, Show Boat will compete against Half A Sixpence and Flowers For Mrs Harris for the best musical production prize, while Folk by Tom Wells, Cuttin’ It by Charlene James and The Restless House by Zinnie Harris will vie for the best new play award.

Former Coronation Street star Julie Hesmondhalgh has been nominated for best performance in a play for her role in Wit at the Royal Exchange Theatre, alongside Paapa Essiedu for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Hamlet and James McArdle for the Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of Young Chekhov: Platonov And Ivanov.

Julie Hesmondhalgh arriving for the 2014 British Soap Awards at The Hackney EmpireJulie Hesmondhalgh (Ian West/PA)

Clare Burt has been nominated for best performance in a musical for Flowers For Mrs Harris, competing against Charlie Stemp for Half A Sixpence and Allyson Ava-Brown, Jennifer Saayeng and Nina Toussaint-White for The Etienne Sisters.

In the best supporting performance category, Emmanuel Kojo will compete against his Show Boat co-star Rebecca Trehearn, as well as Olivia Vinall for her turn in Young Chekhov: The Seagull.

Lesley said: “It is hugely important that we recognise the incredible work that is performed onstage and backstage at theatres across the country, and so I am honoured to be hosting the UK Theatre Awards 2016.

Lesley Manville attending the Olivier Awards 2016 held at The Royal Opera HouseLesley Manville (Ian West/PA)

“Theatre is one of our country’s most vibrant industries, and I look forward to celebrating a year of artistic achievement.”

Julian Bird, chief executive of UK Theatre, said: “This year’s nominations demonstrate that theatres in the UK are continuing to thrive artistically. Night after night, incredible work can be seen on stages up and down the country.

“From thought-provoking drama to musical revivals, our industry is a world-leader. We also recognise the hard work of the dedicated teams backstage and front of house, without which there would be no theatre.”

The awards will take place on October 9.