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'We were so excited to be school in hit TV drama Normal People' - Special part of our history, says principal


Hartstown Community School in Clonsilla features in ‘Normal People’

Hartstown Community School in Clonsilla features in ‘Normal People’

Hartstown Community School in Clonsilla features in ‘Normal People’

The principal of the school where 'Normal People' was filmed has revealed the teachers and pupils are thrilled to have played a role as extras in the hit series.

Hartstown Community School in Clonsilla, Dublin, doubled for the Sligo secondary school attended by the show's central characters, Marianne and Connell.

Pupils of the school formed the crowds cheering from the sidelines during the GAA match in the opening episode featuring actor Paul Mescal showing off his footballing skills with a match-winning goal.

The real-life teachers also pop up in the series.

"There are a good few of our teachers in it in the background as extras, they are at the photocopier or at the door or going in around the hallways," explained principal Lucia Ryan.

"A load of students are in it as well, as extras in the GAA field when the camera goes to the crowd.


Lucia Ryan, principal at Hartstown Community School in Clonsilla. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Lucia Ryan, principal at Hartstown Community School in Clonsilla. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Lucia Ryan, principal at Hartstown Community School in Clonsilla. Photo: Steve Humphreys

"You can see loads of familiar faces in it, which is lovely. Our pupils are the kids cheering on from the stands. They knew they were filmed as extras but they didn't know until it came out whether they would definitely be in it or not.

"When they were able to see themselves they were extremely excited.

"It's been hugely uplifting for us, especially when everything happened in the last couple of months when we can't act as a school."

The principal said she found it quite emotional seeing their school corridors brought to life on the drama in the midst of the lockdown.

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"The sound of the bell and the pictures on the wall and watching normal school activity moving around the corridors in our uniform was very emotional, especially when we can't access the school at the moment or see the kids."

The coming-of-age drama has even caught the attention of Kourtney Kardashian, who posted a picture of her watching it on Instagram.

"I knew it would be huge in Ireland and when it's gone to England and America now, it's just very special," said Ms Ryan.

"You know something is big when one of the Kardashians is talking about it.

"I think Irish love stories capture the world's heart. I think we're very good at that and romance and putting across all those awkward moments.

"I think a lot of people can identify with the whole transition from them being in school to college."

The school uniform even plays a role after the costume designer decided to put Marianne and Connell in the same grey uniform worn by Hartstown Community School pupils to fit in with pictures on the wall in the school corridor.

"All the posters and pictures of past pupils around the building were left up there so I suppose it matched up to keep our uniform. I think the crest is slightly different on the film one but everything else is the same," said Ms Ryan.

She said they would be quite open to fans paying visits to the school.

"It came into my head the other day. I expect people might want to come and see the school whenever we are open again and we would be very open to that," she said.

"It's such a very special part of the history of the school now and we want to keep recognising that we were the school that was chosen for it."

While the TV series has come under the spotlight for its depiction of young love, the principal believes the critically acclaimed production has opened up an important conversation on consent.

"I think the conversation it has opened up, on consent and how to handle those awkward conversations when you are that age and learning how to deal with them as you get older, is wonderful."

She said the production team, which spent around six weeks of the summer holidays shooting in the school, gave pupils an incredible insight into the mechanics of film-making, which is taught in the school in transition year.

"It was filmed in 2018 during the summer holidays. The school kind of closed for the set during mainly the month of July.

"They recreated some of the home scenes as well in the school grounds. They set up different types of sets using our building as well.

"It was very special for the pupils to see how the set was made up and even to see the food trucks - they were very excited about the food trucks - and watching how everything plays out and how it is pieced together afterwards."

She believes its success is in its very real portrayal of school life. "Anyone watching it, it reminds you of your own school time," she said.

"It's all kinds of little rites of passage you are watching on screen and I think everyone can identify with the groups and the cliques and the GAA lads and the girls organising the debs.

"I think especially during all this lockdown it's very comforting to people."

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