Watch Sheffield’s Jarvis Cocker speak about how this 1960s novel influenced his life

An archive video released by the BBC details how Sheffield’s Jarvis Cocker was influenced by Barry Hines' seminal 1968 book, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Wednesday, 28th April 2021, 4:35 pm
Jarvis Cocker speaks to comedian Greg Davies about how the 1960s novel A Kestrel for a Knave influenced him in a BBC video.
Jarvis Cocker speaks to comedian Greg Davies about how the 1960s novel A Kestrel for a Knave influenced him in a BBC video.

In the video released on the BBC archives from 2019, Jarvis Cocker sat down with comedian Greg Davies to talk about how Barry Hines' seminal 1968 book, A Kestrel for a Knave has had an impact on his life.

The iconic musician and Pulp legend from Sheffield starts off the interview by talking about how he first read the book at school, with everybody having to stand up and read a section – he jokingly spoke about the ‘big excitement’ of getting a page that had some expletives so that people could use swear words in the classroom.

Interviewer Greg Davies asks: “What is it about the book that has made it a special book for you?”

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Jarvis says: “For me, it's that symbolism of flight and of escape from your surroundings or escape from what is holding you down, and I think that was very powerful for me growing up.

"The desire to escape has been historically a massive kind of engine for people from the north, not just people from the north but working-class backgrounds.

"It’s like it gives you some energy, you kind of want to get away from there, you want to make something or write something or sing something in order to help you get away, to soar with your jesses off, we all need to take the jesses off now and again and fly free."

During the interview, Greg Davies asks: “I know why it speaks to a northerner, but why does it speak to other people?”

Jarvis replies: “That’s a good question; I think it’s something to do with if you tell a story in a specific enough way, people then realise that there is something genuine about it, there’s something real about it because you could only really pick up on those details if you’ve lived that kind of experience.

“In a weird way, the more specific you make it, that opens it up into a universal thing, all of my creative career has been trying to work out how that works because I really think it is true, if you get the details of stuff right, suddenly it clicks for people, and they say oh yes this is real and I’m going to take notice of that.”

The 1960s novel written by Barry Hines is set in a working-class town and follows Billy Casper, a young working-class boy troubled at home and at school, who finds and trains a kestrel whom he names "Kes".

In 2019, Greg Davies starred in the TV documentary 'Looking for Kes' in which he travelled to the small mining town of Hoyland Common in South Yorkshire to visit locations and meet the people who inspired and who have been inspired by the book "a Kestrel for a Knave" and the film of the novel, "Kes".

Pulp legend, Jarvis Cocker has recently released a new single and has also announced a hometown show in Sheffield.