'Writing has nothing to do with pretty views. It’s to do with commitment.’ – Barry Hines
Fifty years ago, Barry Hines’s second novel A Kestrel for a Knave was published. A year later, it was adapted for the screen as Kes, and is undoubtedly one of our defining Northern stories. The tale of Billy Casper, a poverty-stricken teenager who gains new purpose when he finds and trains a kestrel, is one of resilience and freedom. But it also powerfully depicts the ways in which systems and institutions restrict rather than realise potential for those, like Billy, who have the odds stacked against them. It is a story about our region, as much as it is a story about a boy and bird.
Unlike many working-class writers of the post-war period, Hines was never tempted to leave the North, either physically or in the stories he told. Long after the fashion for Northern realism faded, Hines continued to be inspired by his South Yorkshire surroundings, and to represent the people and landscapes of his class. This meant that during the deeply divisive and transformative 1980s, he was able to do his most important work, with the trilogy of The Gamekeeper, Looks and Smiles and Threads, exploring – in often brutal fashion – the human impact of Thatcherism on the North. During the second part of the decade, Hines went on to produce plays for television as an attempt to make sense of the miners’ strike. Owing to the political climate of the time, these were never produced, but they survive in his archive as powerful examples of his dedication to the politics of place.
Former steelworker George Purse is the gamekeeper on a duke’s estate. Other locals have an uneasy relationship with George, whose position as someone who upholds the rules and rights of the upper class sets him apart from them. Adapted from Barry Hines's novel of the same name, The Gamekeeper is a beautifully shot study of the relationship between society, economics and the countryside, and the exploitation inherent to the class system.
Thursday 16 Aug 6:10pm
Looks and Smiles
Based on Barry Hines’s acclaimed novel, and made at a time when British unemployment was already reaching record levels, Looks and Smiles follows Mick, a teenager looking for work in recession-hit Sheffield. Featuring a cast of unknown leads, with hauntingly lyrical black and white cinematography of bleak industrial scenes, this portrait is as important a film to watch today as it was on first release.
Wednesday 22 Aug 6:10pm
Threads is one of those Sheffield stories that has achieved legendary cult status – you'll never forget the first time you watched it. Written by Barry Hines and directed by Mick Jackson (who later went on to direct The Bodyguard – fun fact), Threads is a documentary-style TV drama on the effects of a nuclear war on Sheffield.
Wednesday 29 Aug 6:15pm
Film locations from both Looks and Smiles and Threads feature in our Sheffield on Film guide – on sale in our online shop.