Campaign to build 'Kes' statue in memory of Barry Hines takes flight in Barnsley

It is intended the statue would be based on the character of Billy Casper and his kestrel Kes
It is intended the statue would be based on the character of Billy Casper and his kestrel Kes
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Fundraising has begun in an attempt to build a statue in memory of one of Yorkshire’s most famous authors in his home town of Barnsley. Chris Burn reports.

Barry Hines was one of the great chroniclers of working-class life with his novel, A Kestrel for a Knave, famously turned into one of the country’s most-loved films Kes.

Barry Hines passed away in 2016 after a battle with dementia

Barry Hines passed away in 2016 after a battle with dementia

Now almost two years after his death at the age of 76 following a decade-long battle against dementia, plans are afoot for a permanent memorial to him in his home town of Barnsley based on the book, which was released 50 years ago this week.

The scheme is being backed by Kes star Dai Bradley, as well as local authors Ian McMillan and Milly Johnson. World-renowned sculptor Graham Ibbeson has delayed his retirement to design the intended statue of the book’s main character Billy Casper and his kestrel.

If the necessary £106,000 can be raised, it is hoped the statue will be eventually be installed in the town centre. If any additional money is raised, it will be donated to a dementia charity and local good causes. It is hoped around half the money can be raised through donations, with the rest through putting on special events, while grants will also be applied for.

Ibbeson will commence work when half the funds have been released but he will be making maquettes of the statue for sale very shortly.

The idea of a statue in memory of Hines, who was also a teacher, was suggested by one of his ex-pupils Ronnie Steele who was inspired to become a teacher himself by Barry.

Hines was born in 1939 in Hoyland Common, a small mining village outside Barnsley, and his work put the South Yorkshire town on the cultural map.

He wrote nine novels over a career that spanned almost 50 years, but it was his second book about a young boy who escapes his troubled school life by training a kestrel that brought him to public prominence. The book was inspired by the experiences with kestrels as a child of his younger brother Richard, who recently published his own memoir.

Written in 1968, it was adapted for the highly-acclaimed Ken Loach film Kes, which was ranked seventh in the British Film Institute’s top 10 British films.

Among his novels was The Blinder – his first, published in 1966 – about a gifted young footballer, and he also wrote the screenplay for the 1984 TV drama Threads, which imagined the chilling effect of a nuclear attack in Sheffield.

Milly Johnson, who herself has gone on to publish 12 best-selling novels with over one million sales, says her work focusing on the lives and loves of ordinary Yorkshire folk has been greatly inspired by Hines.

“Barry was a trailblazer. He wrote about the North when it was unfashionable to do so and he was a great influence on me,” she says.

“I wanted to write books like Barry and I did, celebrating the North. He was a great man and a great talent.”

Johnson says it has taken around nine months of preparation to get to the stage of starting to raise funds and it is hoped enough cash can be collected that the statue could be in place this year to mark the 50th anniversary.

She says donations of any size will be more than welcomed by the organising team.

“Barry Hines was one of Yorkshire’s finest. Even if people give a pound, there is no amount too small. This is a community project and it will be for the community and by the community.

“Barry was such a humble man, he wouldn’t have wanted the statue to be of himself, it is right it is Billy and his bird.

“Barnsley is not synonymous with the arts but we have produced some amazing people and Barry was the best of the best.”

To make a donation, visit Barry Hines Memorial Sculpture Fund.