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Kenneth Loach (born 17 June 1936) is an English film and television director.

He is known for his naturalistic, social realist directing style and for his socialist beliefs, which are evident in his film treatment of social issues such as homelessness (Cathy Come Home) and labour rights (Riff-Raff).


Early life and career

Loach was born in Nuneatonmarker, Warwickshiremarker, the son of Vivien (née Hamlin) and John Loach. He attended King Edward VI Grammar Schoolmarker and following two years in the RAF read law at St Peter's Collegemarker, Oxfordmarker. There he performed in the now well established comedy group, the Oxford Revue. He initially worked as an actor in repertory theatre, but in the early 1960s moved into television direction and was credited in this role on early episodes of Z-Cars in 1962.

In 1966, Loach made the influential docu-drama Cathy Come Home portraying working class people affected by homelessness and unemployment, and presenting a powerful and influential critique of the workings of the Social Services. Soon afterwards with Poor Cow (1967) he started directing films for the cinema, and in 1969 made Kes, the story of a troubled boy and his kestrel, based on the novel A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines. It probably remains his best known film in Britain.

During the 1970s and '80s, Loach's films were less successful, often suffering from poor distribution, lack of interest and political censorship. His film The Save the Children Fund Film (1971) was commissioned by the charity, who subsequently disliked it so much they attempted to have the negative destroyed. It has never been shown in public.

Loach was later commissioned by Channel 4 to make A Question of Leadership, a documentary series on the response of the British trade union movement to the challenge posed by the policies of the Thatcher government. However, the programme was not broadcast by Channel 4, a decision Loach claimed was politically motivated. Another film, "Which Side Are You On?" (1984) relating to the UK miners' strike, was commissioned by The South Bank Show, but also withdrawn before transmission. The film was eventually transmitted, but only after it won a major prize at the Berlin International Film Festival. Crucially, it was only shown towards the end of the miner's strike and not in the middle of the strike when it was originally scheduled.

However, the 1990s saw the production of a series of critically acclaimed and popular films. During this period he was also awarded prizes at the Cannes Film Festivalmarker on three occasions. He directed the Courtroom Drama reconstructions in the docu-film McLibel, concerning the longest libel trial in English history, which became a promotional disaster for the fast food chain.

On 28 May 2006, Loach won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festivalmarker for his film The Wind That Shakes the Barley, a movie about the Irish War of Independence and the subsequent Irish Civil War during the 1920s. Loach lives with his wife, Lesley, in Bathmarker, where he is a supporter of and shareholder in Bath City F.C.

Film style

Loach's film work is characterised by a particular view of realism; he strives in every area of filmmaking to emphasise genuine interplay between actors, to the point where some scenes in his films appear unscripted. However, all scenes are carefully scripted, around which some improvisation can occur. The final script and the final film are actually very close.Loach values having a strong, creative partnership with scriptwriters, most recently with Paul Laverty, who has written 9 feature films for Loach (including The Wind That Shakes The Barley and Sweet Sixteen) and previously with Jim Allen (Land & Freedom) and Barry Hines (Kes).

Rather than employing method actors, he prefers unknown talent who have had some of the life experience of the characters they portray. Loach's film work has been described as naturalistic, he emphasises the genuine interplay between actors and foregoes any over-dependence on special effects. He succeeds in creating a spontaneous, realistic atmosphere in scenes and many actors, from Dustin Hoffman and Robert Duval to Robert Carlyle (Carla's Song and Riff-Raff) and Peter Mullan (My Name Is Joe) have praised the performances he coaxes from actors and how he treats them.

In Bread and Roses, a film about immigrant cleaners in LA, many of the actors appearing were actual Latino cleaners who were immigrants themselves. Some were also trade union and grassroot activists. Some knew from their own experience the dangers of crossing the border into the US. Adrien Brody, the main actor, spent time with activists to understand his role better. Pilar Padilla, a Mexican actress and protagonist of the film, had to learn English in a crash course to play the part.

Loach makes great efforts to help the actors express themselves naturally and honestly. He believes that shooting in order, from first scene to last, helps the actors enormously to find a truthful response to their circumstances. Many actors in his films are often not given the full script at the beginning of a shoot, but rather they experience the story just as a fictional character might do. He will often give actors their scenes a couple of days in advance so they can learn their lines but they still won't know what comes after that. If a scene involves shock or surprise for a character, the actor might not know what is about to happen. In Kes the boy actor, discovering the dead bird at the end, believed Loach had actually killed the bird that he had become quite close to during the filming (in fact the crew used a dead bird found elsewhere). In Raining Stones one of the actresses visited at her house by a loan shark had no idea that he was going to force her to take off her wedding ring and give it to him as part payment. In Carla's Song, the bus driver, played by Robert Carlyle, knew nothing of Carla's attempted suicide until he discovered her in the bath. In Looking For Eric the main actor Steve Evets only realised that football icon Eric Cantona was actually in the film when he turned around to face him in a scene, with the camera rolling.

Loach is a strong opponent of censorship in cinema and was outraged at the 18 certificate given to Sweet Sixteen. Loach himself said,

Political activities

A member of the Labour Party from the early 1960s, he left in the mid-1990s. In November 2004, he was elected to the national council of the Respect Coalition and has also stood for election to the European Parliament on a Respect mandate. He is a supporter of the Socialist Resistance organisation. Also, hesupports the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural boycott of the State of Israel (, which is supported by a wide spectrum of Palestinian civil society, including writers, filmmakers, students, trade unions and human rights groups. PACBI is in turn part of a wider global international movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli State (

In 2007, Loach was one of more than 100 artists and writers who signed an open letter initiated by Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism and the South West Asian, North African Bay Area Queers (SWANABAQ) and calling on the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival "to honour calls for an international boycott of Israeli political and cultural institutions, by discontinuing Israelimarker consulate sponsorship of the LGBT film festival and not co-sponsoring events with the Israeli consulate." Loach also joined "54 international figures in the literary and cultural fields" in signing a letter that stated, in part, "celebrating 'Israel at 60' is tantamount to dancing on Palestinian graves to the haunting tune of lingering dispossession and multi-faceted injustice". The letter was published in the International Herald Tribune on 8 May 2008.".

Responding to a report, which he described as "a red herring", on the growth of antisemitism since the beginning of the Gaza War, he has said: "If there has been a rise I am not surprised. In fact, it is perfectly understandable because Israel feeds feelings of anti-Semitism." He added "no-one can condone violence".

In May 2009, organizers of the Edinburgh International Film Festival returned a £300 grant from the Israeli Embassy after speaking with Ken Loach. The director was supporting a boycott of the festival called for by the PACBI campaign.In response, former Channel 4 chief executive Sir Jeremy Isaacs describing Loach's intervention as an act of censorship, he said: "They must not allow someone who has no real position, no rock to stand on, to interfere with their programming." Later, a spokesman for the EIFF said that although it had returned £300 to the Israeli Embassy, the festival itself would fund Israeli filmmaker Tali Shalom-Ezer's travel to Edinburgh out of its own budget. In an open letter to Ms Shalom Ezer, Ken Loach wrote "From the beginning, Israel and its supporters have attacked their critics as anti-semites or racists. It is a tactic to undermine rational debate. To be crystal clear: as a film maker you will receive a warm welcome in Edinburgh. You are not censored or rejected. The opposition was to the Festival’s taking money from the Israeli state" To his critics, he added later: "The boycott, as anyone who takes the trouble to investigate knows, is aimed at the Israeli state." Loach said he had a "respectful and reasoned" conversation with event organizers, saying they should not be accepting funds from Israel.

In June 2009, Loach, Paul Laverty (writer) and Rebecca O'Brien (producer) pulled their film Looking For Eric from the Melbourne International Film Festival, where the Israeli Embassy is a sponsor, after the festival declined the withdraw their sponsorship. The festival's chief executive, Richard Moore, compared Loach's tactics to blackmail, stating that "we will not participate in a boycott against the State of Israel, just as we would not contemplate boycotting films from China or other nations involved in difficult long-standing historical disputes.” Australian lawmaker Michael Danby also critcized Loach’s tactics stating that “Israelis and Australians have always had a lot in common, including contempt for the irritating British penchant for claiming cultural superiority. Melbourne is a very different place to Londonistan.”.

Loach, Laverty and O'Brien subsequently wrote that: "We feel duty bound to take advice from those living at the sharp end inside the occupied territories. We would also encourage other filmmakers and actors invited to festivals to check for Israeli state backing before attending, and if so, to respect the boycott. Israeli filmmakers are not the target. State involvement is. In the grand scale of things it is a tiny contribution to a growing movement, but the example of South Africa should give us heart".

Loach has also expressed strong support for Chechenmarker independence from Russiamarker.

Loach is a Patron of several charities, including Doorway, a homeless charity in Nuneaton, and the Drugs and Homeless Initiative (DHI) in Bath.


Loach turned down an OBE in 1977. In a Radio Times interview, published in March 2001, he said: "It's all the things I think are despicable: patronage, deferring to the monarchy and the name of the British Empire, which is a monument of exploitation and conquest."

In December 2003, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Birminghammarker. Oxford Universitymarker awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree in June 2005. He is also an honorary fellow of his alma mater, St Peter's College, Oxford. In May 2006, he was awarded the BAFTA Fellowship at the BAFTA TV Awards.



  • Z Cars (series, 1962)
  • Diary of a Young Man (1964)
  • 3 Clear Sundays (1965)
  • Up the Junction (1965)
  • The End of Arthur's Marriage (1965)
  • Coming Out Party (1965)
  • Cathy Come Home (1966) (as Kenneth Loach)
  • In Two Minds (1967)
  • The Golden Vision (1968)
  • The Big Flame (1969)
  • The Rank and the File (1971) - part of the Play for Today series.
  • After a Lifetime (1971)
  • A Misfortune (1973)
  • Days of Hope (mini-series, 1975)
  • The Price of Coal (1977)
  • Auditions (1980)
  • A Question of Leadership (1981)
  • The Red and the Blue: Impressions of Two Political Conferences - Autumn 1982 (1983)
  • Questions of Leadership (1983)
  • The View From the Woodpile (1989)



  1. Ken Loach Biography (1936-)
  2. Amy Raphael "The great crusader", New Statesman, 20 September 2007
  3. Matthew S. Bajko "Political Notebook: Queer activists reel over Israel, Frameline ties", Bay Area Reporter, 17 May 2007.
  4. "San Francisco Queers Say No Pride in Apartheid", The Electronic Intifada, 29 May 2007.
  5. "60 Years of Palestinian Dispossession . . . No Reason to Celebrate 'Israel at 60'!", Mr Zine (Monthly Review Press) website, 17 May 2008.
  6. "EU-wide rise in anti-Semitism described as 'understandable'", EU Politics News, 4 March 2009
  7. Edinburgh film festival bows to pressure from Ken Loach over Israeli boycott, The Times], 20 may 2009
  8. Loach pressure sways Edinburgh festival[1] Digital Spy, 20 May 2009.
  9. Edinburgh film festival refuses Israeli grant due to pressure by Ken Loach[2] Haaretz, 20 May 2009.
  10. Ahmad, Muhammad. Ken Loach responds to critics,, May 26, 2009.
  11. Ahmad, Muhammad. 'Enough is Enough', say Ken Loach and Ilan Pappe,, June 18, 2009.
  12. Israeli funding angers filmmaker by Philippa Hawker, The Age. July 18, 2009.
  13. British director withdraws festival film, Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), July 19, 2009.
  14. Why we back the boycott call by Ken Loach, Rebecca O'Brien and Paul Laverty, The Electronic Intifada, September 7, 2009.
  15. Ken Loach and others "Letter: Chechnya needs a fair political settlement", The Guardian, 23 February 2009
  16. Nuneaton and Bedworth Doorway
  17. DHI Online
  18. "Director Loach slams TV news", BBC News, 13 March 2001.
  19. Biography on Ken Loach's website.

External links

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