Derry Girls writer wants city’s seal of approval

l-r:  Gerry Quinn (Tommy Tiernan), Mary Quin (Tara O'Neill) Erin Quinn (Sairse Jackson), Orla McCool (Louisa Harland), Sarah McCool (Kathy Clarke) Granda Joe (Ian McElhinney) Picture by Adam Lawrence
l-r: Gerry Quinn (Tommy Tiernan), Mary Quin (Tara O'Neill) Erin Quinn (Sairse Jackson), Orla McCool (Louisa Harland), Sarah McCool (Kathy Clarke) Granda Joe (Ian McElhinney) Picture by Adam Lawrence

The writer of the forthcoming new Channel 4 comedy series ‘Derry Girls’ has said she hopes the show will do the people of her native city proud when it debuts in the New Year.

Lisa, plus some members of the cast and crew who created the show, including Oscar-nominated director of the new series Michael Lennox, recently arrived in Derry for the premiere of the first two episodes at Brunswick Moviebowl in Derry.

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And the Derry woman - an accomplished screenwriter with a string of other hits under her belt - admitted she was nervous about the home reaction to a show set in the city.

‘Derry Girls’ is centred around four teenagers from the city, Erin, her cousin Orla, Michelle and Clare, all pupils at (the fictional) Our Lady Immaculate College convent school in Derry in the early 1990s, with Michelle’s mild-mannered English cousin James in tow.

The show follows the exploits of the five as they navigate, dodge and chance their way through the trials of teenage angst, school, family, love and Fionnuala the chip shop woman, with hilarious results, against the backdrop of the ‘Troubles.’

An able young cast in the central roles are joined by comedian, Tommy Tiernan and Game of Thrones star, Ian McElhinney, among others.

Compere at a question and answer session after the screening in the Bowling Alley, Eavan King, described Derry Girls as a “very strong, very funny, very earthy and very real ensemble piece.”

Addressing those gathered, Lisa said: “I’m a bit nervous about doing the first one in Derry because people here are not shy about telling you if they don’t like it.”

Speaking on how the show came about, Lisa said Liz and herself had started talking about the subject over three years ago.

“I was a teenager at the tail end of the ‘Troubles’ and when we started talking about it, about people here in that period, we realised what an extraordinary period it was. We wanted to show a side that wasn’t on television, the warmth and humour.

People had to get on with their lives; go to work and raise their kids and also teenagers are the centre of their universe. I was, my friends were and all we cared about was what we had going on. There’s that universal thing, teenagers everywhere are the same.

“It’s one of those things you only realise when you grow up and have a bit of distance - it’s quite weird that period in Northern Ireland and it was quite weird to go to a convent school as well.

“They are both rich worlds with lots of things that I don’t think would be a typical teenager’s experience, but when it’s happening it was just normal to us, but when you look at it from the outside it’s a bit weird.

“It is based on my friends from school and I think we were so innocent looking back on it.”

Lisa concluded: “I feel so proud to be from Derry and I can’t believe I have been allowed to celebrate that by writing a show for Channel 4.

“Derry, I really hope that you feel like we have done you proud.”