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Hines, Barry (1939- )


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A frequent collaborator of director Ken Loach, Barry Hines was committed to writing about the working class (particularly in his native Yorkshire) in a way that did justice to the complexity of 'ordinary' life. Although he is best known as the author of Kes (1969), he was also responsible for a number of notable television dramas, including the powerful anti-nuclear piece, Threads (1984).

Hines was born on 30 June 1939 in the South Yorkshire mining village of Hoyland Common, near Barnsley, where his father worked down the pit. He did well enough at school to pass his 11-plus and enter Ecclesfield Grammar School, where he excelled at sport and was picked for the England Grammar Schools' football team. Although he left school to work as an apprentice mining surveyor and play soccer for Barnsley, he later returned to education and trained as a PE teacher.

It was while working as a teacher in Yorkshire that he wrote his first novel, The Blinder (1966) about an ambitious working-class footballer (called 'Lennie Hawk'). This attracted the attention of television producer Tony Garnett, who invited him to write a Wednesday Play (1964-70) for the BBC. Hines, however, had already embarked on his second novel, which he promised to send to Garnett once it was finished. The ensuing book, A Kestrel for a Knave (1968), about a young working-class lad's passion for training a kestrel, became Hines' best-known and most popular work.

Garnett was keen to turn it into a film, which would became the first production for his new company, Kestrel Films, set up after his departure from the BBC. Kes was shot in and around the Barnsley area and involved a number of Hines' friends and family (including his brother Richard, who trained the kestrels employed in the film, and fellow PE teacher Brian Glover). Hines also collaborated with director Ken Loach and Garnett on the screenplay, which simplified the novel's use of flashbacks but retained its central vision of a life weighed down by social and economic disadvantage.

Despite some initial difficulties in securing distribution, Kes eventually proved a success and paved the way for further work with Loach. 'The Price of Coal', which Garnett also produced, was a two-part Play for Today (BBC, 1970-84) set in a South Yorkshire mining village. The first part ('Meet the People: A film for the Silver Jubilee', tx. 29/3/1977) provides a wry observation of the absurdities surrounding the preparations for a royal visit while the second ('Back to Reality', tx. 5/4/1977) is a moving account of a pit accident that leaves a number of men trapped underground. Hines' novel The Gamekeeper (1975), dealing with the experiences of a steel-worker turned gamekeeper, provided the source for Loach's 'dramatised documentary' of the same name (ITV, tx. 16/12/1980), while Looks and Smiles (1981), in which a school-leaver embarks upon a search for his first job, was partly conceived as a follow-up to Kes. Although made for Central Television, Looks and Smiles emerged as a quietly memorable film that went on to win the prize for contemporary cinema at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival.

Although Hines subsequently acted as script editor on Loach's The Navigators (2001) - a film with more than a passing resemblance to 'The Price of Coal' - Looks and Smiles was, in effect, the end of Hines' partnership with Loach (who opted at this point to concentrate on making documentaries). Loach, however, was not Hines' only collaborator and, prior to 'The Price of Coal', Hines had already written two Plays for Today: an adaptation of his radio play about mining, 'Billy's Last Stand' (BBC, tx. 4/2/1971), and a school drama with echoes of Kes, 'Speech Day' (BBC, tx. 26/3/1973). A short play based on his grandfather's experiences, 'Two Men from Derby' (tx. 21/2/1976), also formed part of the BBC's Centre Play series.

His most famous television work, however, was Threads (BBC, tx. 23/9/1984), a powerful documentary-drama dealing with the aftermath of a nuclear attack on Sheffield that went on to win a Best Single Drama BAFTA. Thereafter Hines drew further inspiration from his experiences of football. Shooting Stars (Channel 4, tx. 17/5/1990) tells the story of a footballer kidnapped by children, while 'Born Kicking' (Screen One, BBC, tx. 20/9/1992), produced by Tony Garnett, follows a young woman's battle to be accepted into the male world of professional football. Alongside his film and television career, Hines also maintained a steady output of novels (nine in all). In 2009, the Yorkshire-based publisher, Pomona, compiled an anthology of previously unpublished work, This Artistic Life.

John Hill

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Kes (1969)Kes (1969)

Masterly Ken Loach film about a lonely boy adopting a wild kestrel

Thumbnail image of Looks and Smiles (1981)Looks and Smiles (1981)

Powerful early-Thatcher era drama about the prospect of life on the dole

Thumbnail image of Navigators, The (2001)Navigators, The (2001)

Ken Loach's powerful response to the privatisation of British Rail

Thumbnail image of Gamekeeper, The (1980)Gamekeeper, The (1980)

Low-key drama exploring the class divide in rural Yorkshire

Thumbnail image of Price Of Coal, The (1977)Price Of Coal, The (1977)

Comic and tragic events at a Yorkshire pit in Ken Loach's two-parter

Thumbnail image of Question of Leadership, A (1980)Question of Leadership, A (1980)

Ken Loach's analysis of the early impact of Thatcherism on workers

Thumbnail image of Threads (1984)Threads (1984)

Harrowing drama depicting the effects of a nuclear attack on Sheffield

Related collections

Thumbnail image of Ken Loach: Television DramaKen Loach: Television Drama

The powerful small screen work of an uncompromising master

Thumbnail image of Play for Today (1970-84)Play for Today (1970-84)

Single drama slot known for its provocative political work

Thumbnail image of Wednesday Play, The (1964-70)Wednesday Play, The (1964-70)

Long-running, often provocative BBC drama strand

Thumbnail image of Ken Loach and his collaboratorsKen Loach and his collaborators

Collaboration is key for Britain's foremost political filmmaker

Related people and organisations

Thumbnail image of Garnett, Tony (1936-)Garnett, Tony (1936-)

Producer, Director, Writer, Actor

Thumbnail image of Loach, Ken (1936-)Loach, Ken (1936-)

Director, Writer