Greg Davies: Looking for Kes

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Greg Davies: Looking for Kes


For many youngsters back in the day, Kes was the first end-of-innocence film that they had seen, and as such it was quite a punch to the gut. But many more had already come across its gritty world of betting slips, Barnsley oaths and falconry jesses in class readings of the film’s source novel, A Kestrel for a Knave.

In this warmly engaging look back, comedian Greg Davies visits the stomping ground of its author, Barry Hines, who died in 2016, and meets both his brother Richard, on whom the book’s downtrodden, kestrel-training hero was based, and Dai Bradley, who played him in the film.

Davies also chats to musician Jarvis Cocker, a fellow fan who neatly condenses the book’s appeal: “That symbolism of flight and escape from what’s holding you down”. And to Kes director Ken Loach, who gave such unforgettable expression to that escape – though the production is not without controversy.

But it’s the story’s distinctive South Yorkshire dialect (heard from Richard Hines and, in a lovely archive interview, Barry) that reminds you of the voice it gave to those without hope or prospects. It’s one that reverberates in broken Britain today.


The comedian pays tribute to Ken Loach's 1969 adaptation of Barry Hines' classic novel A Kestrel for a Knave. He travels to Barnsley to meet members of Hines' family, including his brother Richard, who was the inspiration for the book's protagonist Billy Casper. He also talks to Loach and Dai Bradley, who played Billy in the film, and talks to Jarvis Cocker about the character's impact on British pop culture.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Greg Davies
Contributor Jarvis Cocker
Contributor Ken Loach
Contributor Dai Bradley
Executive Producer Richard Bright