Kes author's lost play about miners' strike to be staged for first time

Barry Hines’s After the Strike, about the violence at Orgreave, lay untouched for 35 years

A lost play about the miners’ strike by the acclaimed author behind Kes is to be performed in public for the first time, more than 30 years after it was deemed too controversial for television.

After the Strike was written by the novelist Barry Hines in 1985 and depicted graphic scenes of police violence against striking miners at the Battle of Orgreave a year earlier.

Despite Hines being at the height of his critical acclaim at the time, the work was never broadcast and lay untouched for 35 years until it was discovered by researchers in the late author’s university archive.

The work, which will be performed for the first time at Sheffield’s Kelham Island Museum on 18 June, is described as an unflinching account of clashes between police and miners at Orgreave on 18 June 1984 and the “multiple corrosive effects” it had on the South Yorkshire community.

The play was found among other unpublished works in Hines’s archive, which was donated to the University of Sheffield after his death, aged 76, in March 2016. It was accompanied by a note from his wife, Eleanor Hines, which said she had a “vague memory of ‘the powers that be’ not being interested in the strike any more”.

Dr David Forrest, a senior lecturer in film studies at the University of Sheffield, said Hines became deeply embedded with the National Union of Mineworkers and carried out a series of interviews with miners after the clashes at Orgreave.

Barry Hines
Barry Hines was the son and grandson of mine workers. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

His two unpublished accounts, one of which is After the Strike, were too politically sensitive to be aired at the time, Forrest said. “It’s true that they are very, very politically didactic and explicit and they make absolutely no bones about their position,” he said.

“It would have been unrealistic to expect any broadcaster to have picked them up at the time, particularly because they depict quite graphically police brutality at Orgreave. It was clearly something he had to get out of his system.”

Hines, whose most famous book A Kestrel for a Knave inspired Ken Loach’s classic film Kes, was at the height of his acclaim in 1985 following his Bafta-winning drama-documentary Threads, which was set in Sheffield during the cold war and chronicled the effect of a nuclear bomb dropped on a northern English city.

The son and grandson of mineworkers, Hines “mourned what he saw as the wanton destruction of communities”, Forrest said, and was “particularly exercised by the events at Orgreave and their consequences”.

“As a committed working-class writer, Hines felt duty-bound to document what he had seen over the course of the strike,” he said. “This performance is now a chance for people to experience one of Hines’s unpublished pieces of work for the first time while also celebrating his legacy and commemorating the struggles of miners and their families on the 35th anniversary of the Battle of Orgreave.”

Hines, who was born in a mining village near Barnsley, had described how he desperately wanted to write television screenplays about the miners’ strike and wrote scripts for the BBC, but “they did not work”.

After the Strike’s first airing is taking place as part of a series of exhibitions on gentrification, hipster culture and regeneration hosted by the University of Sheffield and the Kelham Island Museum.

Built in the 1100s, Kelham Island was for centuries a key part of the steel city’s industrial power. In recent years, however, the island’s once-booming cutlery and steel works, factories and workshops have become transformed into a hipster paradise with microbreweries, galleries and independent shopping arcades.

Dr Amanda Crawley Jackson, the director of engagement at the University of Sheffield’s faculty of arts and humanities, said the exhibition aimed to tell the untold stories behind the island’s regeneration “and the impact this change has and continues to have on people in the local community”.


Josh Halliday North of England correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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