VIDEO: Kes statue is new tourist attraction at Experience Barnsley

Kes and his owner Billy Casper are back home - a life size statue of the British book and film classic characters is a top new tourist attraction in Barnsley.

Tuesday, 12th March 2019, 4:13 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th March 2019, 4:18 pm
Kes sculpture unveiled at Experience Barnsley
Kes sculpture unveiled at Experience Barnsley

The sculpture, of lead schoolboy character Billy, played by actor Dai Bradley in the film, and his beloved bird Kes, is proving very popular with visitors after gong on temporary display at Experience Barnsley Museum, inside the town hall.

A permanent outside location is still under consideration for the work by famed artist Graham Ibbeson, whose other sculptures include a statue of comedy duo Morecambe and Wise, film star Cary Grant and former Test cricket umpire legend Dickie Bird, which is also in Barnsley.

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His latest work - which he says is likely to be his last ever commission - celebrates the 50th anniversary of 1968 literary classic A Kestrel For A Knave, by late local born author Barry Hines, made into the hit film Kes by director Ken Loach, which is set for its own golden landmark.

Graham, aged 67, of Barnsley, says he hopes the statue will help to inspire the next generation.

He said: "I wasn't going to do any more commissioned sculptures but Ronnie Steele, the chair of the Barry Hines Memorial Statue Project Committee, convinced me to do it. I didn't take much convincing though. I thought about it for at least 10 seconds. But it's a great piece to finish on.

"It's the only sculpture commission I've really enjoyed. I didn't feel under pressure. I actually enjoyed modelling it. And I think it shows in the sculpture itself.

Kes sculpture unveiled at Experience Barnsley

"I'm born and bred in Barnsley, the son of a miner and lived on a council estate as a kid, so I know the community that Billy was part of. Barry Hines' book, what a genius...and the film went ballistic, all over the world.

"I used a still from the film but Dai Bradley came up to my studio to OK it and help me out with things like the jesses around the kestrel. My son took a photo of Dai's profile next to the statue and when I looked at it, I had got it spot on.

"Hopefully I hope t becomes part of the fabric of the town and inspires a younger generation."

Milly Johnson, the town's famed author and a Barry Hines Memorial Statue Project committee member, said she was they are hoping for a permanent town centre site where it will become another tourist attraction and an extra reason to visit Barnsley."

Artist Graham Ibbeson with his Kes sculpture

She explained: "This statue came into being because after Barry died, Ronnie Steele, who was one of Barry's ex-pupils, decided we should have a fitting tribute to him.

"We are working very closely with the council to make sure that it has the best home that it can, with plenty of footfall - so we are hoping for a town centre site, with plenty of people passing it and seeng it. it s part of the lovely, exciting regeneration of Barnsley. We can't say exactly where it's going to be but we know it's going to be good."

The film Kes had its London release on November 14, 1969 and was screened UK wide the following year, from March 27, 1970.

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

Billy Casper and Kes

The book has been used as part of GCSE English school courses.

The sculpture takes centre stage in the museum’s main gallery, a perfect backdrop for the piece in the museum which celebrates the fascinating history of the borough and tells the story of the town through fascinating objects and displays.

The project has been supported by the Kes Group and the Barry Hines Memorial Statue Project Committee, who have worked tirelessly in the making the dream of creating the statue as a memorial to author Barry Hines a reality.

Coun Roy Miller, Cabinet Spokesperson for Place, said: “We are thrilled that Experience Barnsley will host the stunning sculpture.

"Kes has incredibly strong connections to the borough and it will be perfectly placed, surrounded by other important objects relating to the town’s history. It will be the first time people have the opportunity to see the piece and I am sure they will be impressed by the work. It is also a great opportunity for people to have a look around the town’s award winning, free to enter museum.”

For more information about the museum and opening times about visit www.experience-barnsley.com.