From the documentary movement through to the present day, a consistent strain in British social realism can be defined by an impulse towards poetic, image-led narration. The classical principles of taut, cause-and-effect, goal-oriented narrative patterns are eschewed in favour of characteristics more commonly associated with the art cinema convention: authorial self-consciousness; episodic narrative and open-ended narrative; and complicating combinations of objective and subjective realism(s). This chapter points to some of the ways in which art cinema might provide a series of reading strategies that begin to unlock and help to anatomise the underexplored poetic realist tradition in British cinema. Central to this argument will be a close focus on the representation of space and place in social realism. The self-conscious and conspicuous use of space in social realist cinema – often in convergence with highly poetic treatments of rootless, goal-bereft young protagonists – is the dominant and uniting aesthetic trope of poetic realist cinema. In approaching these questions through the lens of art cinema, we may in turn begin to destabilise hitherto reductive approaches to social realism more broadly.

in British art cinema
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Kes, Threads and beyond

The importance of environment in Barry Hines's writing means that insight into his background and the journey to his writing career introduces people to the recurrent preoccupations of his work. Much of the literary reception of Hines's work places him within a canon of working-class writing. This book is the first academic account of Barry Hines's work. It traces the roots of Barry Hines's literary mode of poetic realism in those works of the 1960s that preceded A Kestrel for a Knave. The literary promise Hines showed in The Blinder led to the filming of his novel A Kestrel for a Knave as Kes. The book focuses on a period of extremely fruitful aesthetic production for Hines. It also traces the aesthetic and political effects of the early years of Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government on Hines's writing. The archival history of Threads' drafts and production reveals the nature of its symbolic and factual relation to British politics in this era and how its mingling of documentary and dramatic tropes took shape. Looks and Smiles marked the end of Barry Hines's career-defining collaboration with Ken Loach. The exceptionally divisive events of the miners' strike of 1984-1985 had an acute effect on Hines's writing, just as they did on the terrain and communities of the South Yorkshire that he invariably depicts. The book explores the interconnected issues of class, space and place in Hines's writing, and the practice and purpose of working-class film, television and literature.

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Kes, Threads and beyond

This chapter discusses the importance of environment in Barry Hines's writing. By reason of his own practice, much of the literary reception of Hines's work places him within a canon of working-class writing. After A Kestrel for a Knave, Hines published First Signs, a novel about education in a South Yorkshire setting, followed, in what became an exceptionally productive decade, by a series of film and television screenplays. Even Threads, for which the director Mick Jackson asked Hines to write the screenplay in order to ground the atomic-disaster drama in a socially realist setting, is not always associated with the author. Hines's responsiveness to political contexts meant that he had brought great commitment to write the screenplay for the 1984 nuclear-attack drama Threads. Threads was a shocking cautionary tale which prompted widespread political debate on its television broadcast in both the UK and the USA.

in Barry Hines
Billy’s Last Stand, The Blinder, A Kestrel for a Knave and Kes

This chapter traces the roots of Barry Hines's literary mode of poetic realism in those works of the 1960s that preceded A Kestrel for a Knave. These include the 1965 play Billy's Last Stand, which gives an absurdist form to its social-realist content. The play presents an allegorical critique of enterprise and consumer culture, a familiar concern of course to working-class writers of the period, yet, as we will see, its minimalism distances it from the social realism of Hines's contemporaries. The literary promise Hines showed in The Blinder led to the filming of his novel A Kestrel for a Knave as Kes. The chapter argues that the roots of this novel's cinematic realisation are already apparent in Hines's prose, meaning that the film, so significant in British cultural history, is more of a writerly and collaborative venture than has yet been acknowledged.

in Barry Hines
First Signs, Speech Day, The Gamekeeper, Tom Kite, The Price of Coal

This chapter focuses on a period of extremely fruitful aesthetic production for Barry Hines, in terms of the novels and screenplays that followed A Kestrel for a Knave. During the 1970s, Hines's political energies were directed towards considering the institutions and structures of life at a time of active struggle for workers' rights. Barry Hines's third novel, First Signs, is probably his least known. As we will see again in Hines's writing, for instance in The Gamekeeper, which was published two years after the broadcast of Speech Day, apparently different varieties of time-keeping all point irrevocably towards the 'time discipline' of an industrial work routine. Hines's 1976 screenplay Tom Kite was never filmed, but, as his surname implies, this drama was about an attempted flight on the part of the eponymous protagonist by means of footballing prowess, one that might take him away from Britain altogether.

in Barry Hines
Looks and Smiles, Unfinished Business, Fun City, Threads

This chapter traces the aesthetic and political effects of the early years of Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government on Barry Hines's writing. His screenplay for the 1981 film Looks and Smiles takes an art-cinematic form to explore the pressures of the era's unemployment on young people, in his fourth and final collaboration with Ken Loach. By contrast, Hines's novel Unfinished Business examines the possibilities of social freedom, in this narrative about the class-related and existential implications for a 29-year-old woman of going to university. Hines's unfilmed screenplay Fun City returns to his concern with secondary education, in the form of a bleakly comic fable about the bureaucratic and commercial pressures on schools. Finally, Hines's script for the 1984 film Threads uses social realism in a Cold War-era setting for horrifying effect in its portrayal of what an atomic attack might look like.

in Barry Hines
The Heart of It, the miners’ strike plays, Looking at the Sun, Shooting Stars, Born Kicking, Elvis Over England

The exceptionally divisive events of the miners' strike of 1984-1985 had an acute effect on Barry Hines's writing, just as they did on the terrain and communities of the South Yorkshire that he invariably depicts. The events proved so resistant to Hines's efforts to represent them that none of the three plays he wrote in the wake of the strike was ever produced. His radio drama Looking at the Sun, and novel The Heart of It, as the two instances of Hines's writing on the strike which did appear in the public realm, portray the events from a profoundly retrospective standpoint. Those elements of Hines's earlier work appear in the context of post-industrial British life in Hines's television drama Shooting Stars. But his last novel, Elvis Over England, marks the efforts of its protagonist Eddie Lang to escape the realities of redundancy by undertaking a musically inspired pilgrimage.

in Barry Hines
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The death of Barry Hines was announced on 20 March 2016, and the tributes in print and on social media were heartfelt and wide-ranging. In the days following Hines's death, A Kestrel for a Knave was cited by Paul Mason in a comment piece for the Guardian about the death of the white working class. The retrospective currency of Hines's work in the wake of his death likewise seems to emerge from a collective sense in which it has brought into focus the absence of a place-specific, working-class culture of writing in contemporary Britain. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Hines's focus on class issues was unerring and fundamental, and he rarely strayed from his native South Yorkshire for source material. The Barry Hines Papers offer a glimpse into Hines's working methodology, as well as the manifest level of what might be called the genotext of his works.

in Barry Hines