VIDEO: Kes writer Barry Hines blue plaque unveiled at former South Yorkshire home

KES and Threads writer Barry Hines has been honoured with a memorial blue plaque outside his former South Yorkshire home.

Thursday, 4th July 2019, 2:52 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th July 2019, 4:01 pm

Special guests paying tribute included legendary Kes film director Ken Loach, producer Tony Garnett and author Milly Johnson after the plaque was unveiled by the late author's brother Richard, who inspired his most renowned literary work, A Kestrel For A Knave.

Famed for writing in Yorkshire dialect, Hines helped to adapt his book into the 1969 iconic British classic film.

It tells the story of Billy Casper, played in the film by local actor Dai Bradley, a young pit town working class boy troubled at home and at school, but who gains solace when he finds and trains a kestrel he calls Kes.

Barry Hines blue plaque unveiled in Hoyland Common

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A brass band played as the community turned out in force to celebrate the life and work of their famous son with at the home where he lived in the 1970s at 78 Hoyland Road, Hoyland Common, in Barnsley.

The blue plaque, a joint venture by the Yorkshire Society and the Barry Hines Memorial Sculpture Project, along with the recent unveiling of a life size sculpture by Graham Ibbeson of Kes lead character schoolboy Billy and his beloved kestrel, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the book, film and was timed to commemorate what would have been Hines' 80th birthday on June 30.

He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and lost his seven year battle with the disease in 2016, aged 76.

Ken Loach said: "Kes was central to all our careers, without Kes I would probably be in the rest of the crowd and you wouldn't be interviewing me.

Barry Hines

"Barry's writing of that is so wonderful. The contribution of David Bradley, all the people from the school, Brian Glover and all the rest. It made us really. So owe Barry a huge debt."

Terry added: "The blue plaque is a sign that the people Barry loved, the people of Hoyland Common, loved him. People from all over the world, but particularly here will love him for generations to come."

Barnsley writer Milly Johnson has been a leading campaigner for the plaque and statue - which which is about to go on temporary display inside Barnsley's new Library on May Day Green, opening Saturday, July 13.

She said: "This is Barry's 80th birthday week. His statue is going in the library. We've got a blue plaque. It is the 50th anniversary of the film. Last year when all these projects started it was the 50th anniversary of the book. So it's such a wonderful celebration of our Barry."

Kes director Ken Loach

Hines was born in 1939 in the mining village and his work put the South Yorkshire town on the cultural map.

He wrote nine novels over a career that spanned almost 50 years, but it was his second book about a young boy who escapes his troubled school life by training a kestrel that brought him to public prominence.

Written in 1968, he then helped to adapt it for the highly-acclaimed film Kes, which was ranked seventh in the British Film Institute’s top 10 British films.

He worked closely with Ken Loach on other films including The Price Of Coal (in two parts, 1970 and 1984), The Gamekeeper (1980), and Looks And Smiles (1981).

Richard Hines

The director recalled: “When we made the films, Barry would be very actively involved.

“He chose the locations that we wrote about and where we invariably filmed, he’d come along with me when we were casting, we’d sit and meet people together.

Hines went to Ecclesfield Grammar School in Sheffield where he played football, making the England Grammar Schools team.

He left without any qualifications and joined the National Coal Board as an apprentice mining surveyor.

But a neighbour persuaded him to return to his studies and he eventually trained as a teacher at Loughborough College, teaching PE in London and South Yorkshire, reportedly writing novels in a school library after pupils had gone home.

Among his novels was The Blinder - his first, published in 1966 - about a gifted young footballer, and he also wrote the screenplay for the 1984 TV drama Threads, which imagined the chilling effect of a nuclear attack in Sheffield.

Barry Hines honoured with a blue plaque at 78 Hoyland Road, Hoyland Common, in Barnsley

But it is for A Kestrel For A Knave, the moving story about the working-class teenager Billy Casper and his relationship with his pet kestrel, that he will remain best-known and loved.

The book was inspired by the experiences with kestrels as a child of his younger brother Richard, who published his own memoir.

Considered a modern classic, it has for years been widely taught in schools as a set text.

Speaking about his novel to Yorkshire’s On:Magazine a few years before his death, Barry said: “I think that I painted an accurate picture of what life was like for someone like Billy 40 years ago. Looking back, maybe I was not as sympathetic as I could have been to some of the adult characters ...”

He also spoke of the responsibility he felt to the people of Yorkshire and the areas he so often wrote about, saying: “The main thing for me is to feel that I have represented them well.”

Kes producer Tony Garnett
Author Milly Johnson