FORMER Bury Times journalist Neil Brandwood has written a book celebrating one of British cinema’s most classic films.

Whistle Down the Wind: A 60th Anniversary Celebration is the definitive account of the film in which a group of Lancashire children are convinced Jesus is sheltering in their barn.

“The book is a biography of the film,” Neil explained. “It played such a significant part in British cinema, and everyone is still so fond of it. I wanted to document it before it was too late.”

Neil spent four years researching and writing the book, interviewing all the remaining “children” from the film. Among the celebrity fans who contributed to the book are Sir Ben Kingsley and Dame Judi Dench.

The film was directed by Bryan Forbes and produced by Richard Attenborough.

Bryan’s widow, Nanette Newman, invited Neil to her Surrey home where she shared a wealth of information about the making of the film. And Richard Attenborough’s son, Michael, allowed Neil access to his father’s personal archive.


Neil Brandwood

Neil Brandwood


Attenborough says of the book: “It’s a brilliantly evocative account of the making of what has now come to be regarded as ‘a masterpiece. Touching and frequently very funny, it’s a rich and beautifully detailed story, packed full of cinematic insights. I know my father would have hugely enjoyed it.”

The film’s star, Hayley Mills, wrote the forward to the book, which she describes as “absolutely captivating and beautifully observed”.

Writing the book has been a real labour of love for Neil, who has pledged all profits from it to Marie Curie.

He said a highlight was getting to know Alan Barnes, who so memorably played little Charles, and who uttered the immortal line: “It isn’t Jesus. It’s just a fella”


Hayley Mills and Roy Boulting.

Hayley Mills and Roy Boulting.


“Having watched the seven-year-old in the film, it was surreal meeting him as a 67-year-old,” laughed Neil, whose previous book was a bestselling biography of Bury’s Victoria Wood.