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24 September 2014
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South Yorkshire People: Barry Hines
David Bradley and Brian Glover
Above: David Bradley as Billy Casper and the late Brian Glover as Mr. Sugden in the original film of "Kes".

Sheffield-based Barry Hines is the famed author of "A Kestrel for a Knave", amongst other novels. We caught up with him for an exclusive interview...

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An entertaining and charming man, Barry Hines, of ‘Kes’ fame, agreed to be interviewed at his desk. This Barnsley/ Sheffield United fan wrote a number of novels and screenplays before and after ‘Kes’ and he is in the process of writing ‘Springwood Stars’, a novel about a football team in the 20s. He describes it as more dramatic and completely different to anything he has ever written before.

Barry Hines
Barry Hines wanted to write about real working-class people

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

His first novel was called ‘The Blinder’. It was based to a certain extent on himself and his aspirations; an extremely academic footballer with 4 ‘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.

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.

He says, ‘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 granddad, who had a great talent for football but never realised his potential as he was a bit of a ‘Jack the Lad’.

About Kes
Hines talks about how he came to choose a bird in 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.’

Although he claims the character of Billy 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 humorously related 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 he sympathises more with the character of Mrs Casper, the struggling mother trying to raise two boys and hold down a full-time job, now that he is an older man.

Barry Hines today
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 visits The Showroom regularly, continuing a lifetime of cinema going and says his writing technique is based on watching films. He calls it 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 film is such a classic that it would be impossible to even attempt to re-create it.

- Paulette Edwards

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