Shot in both Barnsley and Tankersley the film Kes is 40 years old
Kes is the 1969 film based on Barry Hines novel “A Kestrel for a Knave,” and was directed by Ken Loach.
Kes is a story of Barnsley boy Billy Casper, an academic failure and victim of social and spiritual poverty. This was no “Disney” boy and his pet type story, but a story of a disaffected Barnsley lad living on a grim estate, who first nicks a book on falconary and later steals a Kestrel. With infinite patience and dedication Billy trains the bird. For the first time in his short life he finds fulfilment and a sense of identity through the rearing and training of the kestre.
Committed to falconry in a way he’ll never be to anything at school, Billy gets bullied by both kids and teachers alike, especially PE teacher Mr. Sugden played by Brian Glover. Billy’s only ally Mr. Farthing played by Colin Welland shows interest in Billy’s extra-curricular activities as he discovers Billy Casper is actually intelligent and dedicated.
David Bradley recently visited Tankersley and was being interviewed for a BBC documentary “Inside out” which should be shown on BBC One this autumn. I caught up with David Bradley as the film crew came to Tankersley Old Hall. He was here to talk about the filming of the scene where Billy Casper scales the ruin to get to the Kestrels Nest.
The original film crew in 1969 had to have all the required licences in place to take the chick, which was then trained by Barry Hines’ brother, Richard, especially for the film. When I asked how he managed to safely climb the tower on film, and were there any special effects to accomplish this, he told me that the farmer put about two tons of straw at the bottom in case he fell, and there were a few good hand holds, but he had to scale the ruin the hard way. He was told if he fell it would mean the end of the film!
Forty years ago David Bradley was an unknown Barnsley lad, and at 14 he won the lead part in the film. For his first film he won a BAFTA award for Best Newcomer. He left school at 17 and began training as an actor in the Royal National Theatre. Like Daniel Radcliffe, star of Harry Potter, he went on to star in the stage play Equus, and went on a 2 and a half year tour of the United States, in Hollywood and Boston.
David had to change his stage name to Dai Bradley because Equity the Actors union would not let him register his own name, as this was taken by another actor. That actor currently plays the Caretaker, Argus Filch, in the Harry Potter films.
I visited the Old Hall whilst they were filming, and managed to ask David a few questions afterwards.
Speaking briefly to David, I asked David a few questions after filming on the Inside Out programme.
What has is been like working as an actor over the last 40 years, you have worked with some very famous people, Richard Burton, Burt Lancaster, Jenifer Jason Leigh, Lynne Perry, and the great Brian Glover?
Yes, I’m glad you mentioned the Great Brian Glover! The great thing I’ve discovered is I’ve been very fortunate to work with some great people Burt Lancaster, John Mills, Anthony Hopkins the people I most admire are those who still have their feet down to earth and very rooted, they are generous people. The people I found difficult, in fact there was only one, who was Joan Fontaine.