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24 September 2014

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You are in: South Yorkshire > SY People > Profiles > Barry Hines


Barry Hines

Sheffield-based Barry Hines is the famed author of A Kestrel for a Knave and Threads, among other novels and screenplays.

An entertaining and charming man, Barry Hines, a Barnsley and Blades fan, has written a number of novels and screenplays.

The 'explosion' over Sheffield

The 'explosion' over Sheffield

He is particularly famed for A Kestrel For A Knave, later made into the classic film Kes (1969) which was set in North Athersley in Barnsley.

Threads was a TV docu/drama filmed in Sheffield in 1984. It looked at what would happen should a nuclear war occur in Britain. Set over a 13-year period, the film is a stark and often depressing look at life after the bomb.


Hines says he first started to write because he read and wanted to read novels which, like Allan Sillitoe and Stan Barstow’s work, had real working class men and women as their main characters.

Barry Hines

Barry Hines at the time of writing Threads, 1980s

His first novel was The Blinder, based to a certain extent on himself and his aspirations - an extremely academic footballer with four A-levels and the chance of playing for Manchester United. He says he wrote with more energy then and that those novels are so far away that he no longer feels they are anything to do with him.

But Hines shies away from the whole Kes thing and finds it mildly amusing that people are still performing the play - a combination of modesty and real disbelief.

"They've done it in all sorts of ways. They've even done a musical, all that's left is to do it on ice."

In Hines's opinion, the best thing he has written is a short play called Two Men from Derby which he claims "wrote itself". It was based on the experience of his grandad, who had a great talent for football but never realised his potential as he was a bit of a Jack-the-lad.

Kes (1969)

Kes (1969)


Billy Caspar, a disaffected young lad living on a soulless Barnsley estate, uncovers a fledgling kestrel and for the first time in his life, feels his imagination stirred and starts to train the bird.

So how did Barry Hines come to choose a bird for the novel? He and his brother used to watch them nesting every year in a wall close to his home and they always wanted one.

"They don't like to make eye contact," he says of hawks. "They sulk. It makes them feel uncomfortable."

"They beat him. They deprived him. They ridiculed him. They broke his heart. But they couldn't break his spirit."

Tagline from 'Kes' by Barry Hines

Although he claims the character of Billy Caspar is not him, he hints at a relatively wide knowledge of kestrels and their habits, as is evident from the novel.

Hines kept baby magpies as a child and relates his experiences of stealing them from their nests (something he regrets now), fattening them up on scraps of food and having them flying around the house until they were strong enough to be set free, which would roughly coincide with the time his mother said "that bird has to go".

The bird would always sit on the windowsill outside and look in, he reminisces, before it finally flew away.

Barry Hines based his characters in Kes on stereotypical characters around him at the time and admits that now he's an older man he sympathises more with the character of Mrs Casper, the struggling mother trying to raise two boys and hold down a full-time job.

Barry Hines

These days Barry Hines reads mainly American novels because of their "energy". He comments on the vigour of the language in these novels. Roddy Doyle, Philip Roth and Walter Mosely are among his favourite writers.

He also says his writing technique is based on watching films; a "show and tell" style which gives the reader the opportunity to form his or her own thoughts and opinions.

Barry said his "bit of an office job" as an apprentice-mining surveyor, became a teaching job when Mr Hawksworth, a neighbour, showed disapproval for him working for the Rockingham Colliery near where he used to live.

Asked if he thinks there will be a remake of the film Kes, Barry Hines shakes his head. Despite the main issues still being relevant today, he feels the original 1969 film is such a classic that it would be impossible to even attempt to re-create it.

last updated: 01/05/2008 at 14:24
created: 11/10/2007

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