Kes legend David’s winging into town

Dai Bradley in Kes
Dai Bradley in Kes
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The star of a much-loved iconic 1960s British film will be paying a visit to Chorley this weekend.

David Bradley, who played fifteen-year-old Billy Casper in Kes, will meet fans and sign autographs and merchandise.

David, 62, will be at Bygone Times antiques warehouse in Eccleston on Sunday, July 10, from noon.

The link up came about through stallholder Suzanne Skipworth, who runs Skip’s Salvage Chic at the Grove Mill warehouse.

David explained: “She contacted me because she’d seen some of the anniversary 
T-shirts I sell to fans.

“She said she had a stall at Bygone Times and would I like to go along do something.

“It will be nice to say hello to fans. I’m happy to go along and I think it’s going to be great fun and they’re always friendly and warm.”

David said selling memorabilia and merchandise was just a hobby.

“I’m still acting. That’s what I’ve done most of my life,” he said. “This is for the fans.”

Kes tells the tale of working class Billy, the son of a single mother, growing up in the North in deprivation and seemingly without hope – until he begins training a kestrel he finds on a nearby farm.

Directed by Ken Loach, the 1969 drama film set in Barnsley, received universal acclaim and is ranked seventh in the British Film Institute’s Top Ten British Films.

“It’s coming up to fifty years now. It’s still as potent as ever,” said David.

He said in present times Kes “seems to resonate” with so many people.

He reflected on being chosen for the part and the making of the film.

“I was a third year. I was 14. I’d done panto in school. I was a natural in some respects.”

He continued: “I knew what was happening, but I didn’t know the ramifications of the thing. Kes was trying to say every youngster has something if you could home in on it, even if it is just a hobby, it could last a lifetime.”

David revealed that the film was close to being ditched at one point.

“It nearly wasn’t made because one of the financial backers withdrew his money the week before.”

Barnsley born and bred David said though he had a number of things in common with Billy, they differed in other ways.

“I loved nature, but knew nothing about birds.

“I loved football whereas Billy didn’t and I enjoyed going to school. I had a good relationship, kind of, with all my teachers. I spoke to them and challenged them.”

David looks back on Kes with so much fondness and tells stories such as how they looked after him when he was getting tired from the punishing acting schedule.

“They saw my eyes were getting black and asked me if I was all right. I would be up early to do a paper round, it was a £1 a week, which was a lot of money then. They said stop your paper round and we’ll pay you £1 a week.

“I used to sell programmes at my football club at weekends and got £1.50 and a bottle of Coke. They said stop that too and we’ll pay you £1.50 and give you a bottle of coke.”

He said of those days: “It was the most amazing experience a 14-year-old boy could probably have. I’ve had many other wonderful experiences but Kes was the main one.”

Suzanne, 46, of Wigan, said of the film: “It’s my all time favourite. I just love it and it’s one of those films you can just keep watching.

“I’ve had loads of interest from people wanting to meet David, wanting T-shirts.”