‘Kes’- Fifty Years On

It is fifty years since the iconic, social commentary film’ Kes’ was filmed in Barnsley using many local people, dialect and locations. This gritty sometimes bleak film was based on a book by Barry Hines (Kestrel for a Knave .1968) and Directed by Ken Loach whose 2016 film ‘I. Daniel Blake’ still shows he can capture aspects of life often not seen or appreciated in all parts and strata of society.

I was able to re-live watching the film through ‘Off The Shelf’ which in its own words is: “Off the Shelf is one of the largest and most accessible literary festivals in the UK. Every year we bring the biggest names in literature and the arts to Sheffield.”  

The film is about Billy Casper a teenage growing up in Barnsley and just about to leave school. Being brought up by his single parent mum with his step brother he has become disengaged with school and what he might do in the future if he is not to follow others down the pit. He finds fulfilment, excitement and learning through bringing up a Kestrel and teaching it to fly to him.


The social commentary of the film is still relevant today with disengaged teenagers stuck in non-fulfilling school days and job prospects to follow. The cane was the go to means of control then as is exclusion today.

The football scene with Brian Glover playing the games teacher (Mr Sugden) is a must watch for all football fans. The picking of teams is classic with the one left, Billy Casper being put in goal in Brian’s team. This is after he tries to get out of games but has to wear the largest shorts you have seen.

The game is played in rain and mud with the games teacher treating it like a top game as he tries to dominate the play through brute force and his whistle. He turns it into a Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur fantasy and creates a twice taken penalty to level the scores. This does not work however as the opposition score in the last minute as Billy dives theatrically the wrong way.

Billy is then bullied into taking a shower despite having no towel and humiliated in front of his peers.

A fantastic scene and film from Ken Loach.

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