Monday, December 05, 2005

Barry Hines - pride in industry

Good interview with writer Barry Hines in the Observer. Hines took as his subject the industrial communities of his native South Yorkshire - most famously in A Kestrel for a Knave (filmed as Kes) - and, in the 1980s, their dismantling in the creative destruction of Thatcherism. Even the nuclear apocalypse visited on Sheffield in his infamous BBC play Threads can be seen as mirroring the economic devastation being wrought at the time.

The economy in South Yorkshire has more or less recovered by most measures (read a 2004 overview here), but has the community? As Observer writer Richard Benson asks Hines:

...for my generation, industries that actually make things have always seemed to be on the way out, and the industries we're supposed to be excited about seem mostly to involve moving paper about and they're boring. Most people I know hate their work as much as anyone ever did, but they don't have the sense of embattled piss-taking and comradeship that you find in The Price of Coal. So, to be honest, I can't help romanticising a world where people actually made things, even though the work was hard. And I'm not the only one. Even some younger people now feel a sort of nostalgia for times they didn't even live through themselves. Do you think that's silly?

'No, it's not silly,' he says. 'The people who made those things and designed them were proud of them. I mean, most of the blokes in Sheffield who worked in the steel factories were proud. You would be, if you were walking down the street in Brighton or somewhere and you saw "Made in Sheffield". You'd say, "Look at that! I made that" or "So and so made that". Or "We did that".'

Has anything come to replace that?

'I've thought a lot about that,' says Hines, as we turn and head back up the street to where the car is parked, 'but I don't know. I just don't know ... maybe the time will come when no one will bother about that, when no one will remember that feeling, when it won't matter. Maybe it's come now.'

Some of Hines' novels have been recently republished by Pomona Books, based just down the valley from here in Hebden Bridge. I'll be looking out for them.



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