The makers of the hit sitcom ‘Derry Girls,’ have been given permission to halt traffic in the city centre for filming next week despite the objections of local traders.
Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Health and Community Committee made the decision following a hearing in the Guildhall on Thursday.
‘Hat Trick Pictures,’ the producers of the the Lisa McGee-penned comedy series, have been given permission to close Shipquay Street/Shipquay Place and Abercorn Road on November 15 and 16.
So expect to see Erin, Michelle, Clare, Orla and James strutting their stuff in and around the Guildhall shooting their ‘second series’ next Thursday and Friday.
Approval was granted after the committee heard from both the TV production team and traders who argued that closing Shipquay Street in the run up to Christmas would damage their livelihoods.
Scott Houston, an assistant location manager with Hat Trick, explaining the rationale for the application under the Roads (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act (NI) 2010, said: “The show is about Derry and we wanted to film the iconic locations of the city safely.”
Mr. Houston said one of the scenes in series two of ‘Derry Girls’ is set in Guildhall Square which, he said, would be impossible to replicate anywhere else.
“We don’t want to fake Derry,” he remarked.
However, Maria McCloskey, representing a group of concerned Shipquay Street traders, some of whom have been operating in the city centre for 25 years, said the council had a “duty of care to us as traders,” to help “keep our businesses going.”
Ms. McCloskey is a co-signatory of a letter of objection to the Hat Trick application that was submitted to the council on Tuesday.
Addressing the committee yesterday, she said she understood the contention that ‘Derry Girls’ was a great advertisement for the city, but she dismissed any suggestions that Shipquay Street traders would benefit from the ‘shoot’ next week as “hypothetical.”
Mr. Houston told the committee that 250 people will be in the city next Thursday and Friday and, that said, many of them will be eating and drinking in the local pubs and cafés during their stay in Derry.
He said the acclaimed writer and creator of ‘Derry Girls’ - Ivy Terrace-native Lisa McGee - had insisted scenes from the second series be shot in Derry.
The committee heard that during filming on Thursday, November 16, Shipquay Street will be fully closed between 9.15 a.m. and 4 p.m. while on Friday, November 17, a ‘stop-and-go system’ will be in operation between 8.30 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Pedestrian access to the street will be open both days.
Mr. Houston revealed that as well as in Guildhall Square, filming will take place outside the ‘Thran Maggies’ shopfront at the bottom of Shipquay Street.
He said the popular cast, which includes Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, Nicola Coughlan, Louisa Harland and Dylan Llewellyn, were looking forward to coming to Derry.
Ms. McCloskey asked why Hat Trick could not shoot the scenes on consecutive Sundays when most premises on Shipquay Street would be closed.
She said she and her colleages were “very concerned” about the potential impact on pre-Christmas business with the road closures slated for the trading week.
Mr. Houston said it was difficult for Hat Trick and the showbusiness industry in general to work on Sundays, due to their reliance on freelance and temporarily contracted actors, directors and crew.
“We can’t do Sundays,” he claimed.
Both the PSNI and the Department for Infrastructure said there were no grounds for refusing the application, and thus, following an in camera debate,
Committee Colr. Ruairí McHugh said: “Following a full and frank discussion and on the advice of the statutory consultees who had no objections and being satisfied that event management should address any of the concerns of the traders, we felt that, on balance, granting the application should outweigh any of the negatives.”