In one of the most memorable scenes in Barnsley’s film history – the PE lesson in Kes – Brian Glover (a Barnsley schoolteacher in a previous life) vividly brings to life Mr Sugden, or a “fair-headed, slightly balding Bobby Charlton”, whose Manchester United side goes down to a 2-1 defeat away at Spurs in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup. This scene is wonderfully powerful, sitting amongst a story about the potential that every individual has within them. Although the film’s main character Billy Casper may have been written off by society, he finds, through his natural affinity with the kestrel he rears, his own unique place in the world. Kes is a brilliant evocation of Barnsley – on location in the borough, written by local teacher Barry Hines and featuring a predominantly local cast – yet it is the seven-minute scene on the football field that is so often remembered.
That scene is especially famous because of the proud sporting tradition we have here in Barnsley. Although Casper’s stint in goal certainly didn’t mark him out as a future great; Barnsley has produced a long line of sporting heroes, each of whom put our town on the sporting map. Mick McCarthy from Worsbrough, who played for Barnsley, Manchester City and the Republic of Ireland and is still a renowned manager; John Stones – born in Thurgoland, student of Barnsley FC’s academy and an integral part of the England team who did incredibly well at the 2018 World Cup; Mark Jones and Tommy Taylor, who lost their lives in the 1958 Munich air disaster; Darren Gough and Katherine Brunt – leading Barnsley, Yorkshire and England fast bowlers; Cudworth-born Olympian Dorothy Hyman who was memorably celebrated at the 2019 Proud of Barnsley Awards. Footballers, cricketers, runners – we have a tradition of sporting greatness that we can rightly be proud of.
That tradition wouldn’t be possible without the network of community sports clubs that form the bedrock of our local communities here in Barnsley. The football grounds, cricket clubs, lawn tennis club and a whole host of martial arts venues, running groups and angling organisations are all an integral part of forging our Barnsley community spirit and giving our young people their first opportunities to follow in the footsteps of our town’s sporting greats. Of course, the local clubs have been hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic. Social distancing rules have led to the suspension of team sports – from the Premier League to local club seasons – and lockdown has risked keeping people apart; against the grain of the social aspect of local sport. Moreover, sporting venues such as Shaw Lane in the town centre – which has been host to community football, cricket, rugby, karate and running for generations – are feeling the pinch as a result of the profoundly damaging economic impact of the Coronavirus.
As a local MP and as the Mayor of South Yorkshire, I’m doing what I can to support our local clubs through the storm of the Coronavirus. But we can all but our bit to support as well. As the lockdown begins to ease, as sport starts to return to our borough’s fields and greens, as we rebuild and renew our local economy in the aftermath of this awful virus – we can all support community sport here in Barnsley. Whether it is spending a sunny afternoon at a local cricket match, getting the kids involved in junior tennis or judo, taking part in the legendary Saturday morning Park Run up at Locke Park – after lockdown, let’s support our local sports clubs.
This article was originally published in the Barnsley Chronicle on 19 June 2020