Derry Girls: The true events that inspired Channel 4 sitcom and filming locations

·3-min read
Derry Girls: The true events that inspired Channel 4 sitcom and filming locations

The third and final series of Channel 4’s comedy sitcom Derry Girls will begin on Channel 4 next week.

The show has proven a hit, winning Best Scripted Comedy at the 2019 Royal Television Society awards, and drawing in 1.8 million viewers for the first episode of the second series.

The sitcom follows Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackon) and her friends as they navigate being teenagers during the end of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Nicola Coughlan, Louise Harland, and Dylan Llwellyn are among the show’s stars.

Despite receiving critical acclaim as a comedy series, Derry Girls deals with some heavy issues. The sitcom is set during the Troubles, a conflict which took place in Northern Ireland between about 1968 to 1998.

The sitcom’s writer, Lisa McGee, based the show on her own experience growing up. Speaking to The Irish Times, she said: “It wasn’t even going to be set during the Troubles, really. I just wanted to write about me and my friends, and the way we behaved in school, leave the Troubles out of it. But that didn’t feel truthful either, because I don’t have an experience without it.”

Many of the scenes are inspired by Lisa McGee’s experience of the Troubles (Peter Marley)
Many of the scenes are inspired by Lisa McGee’s experience of the Troubles (Peter Marley)

This setting is intrinsic to the show, and many of the scenes are based on real events, which occurred because of the Troubles. The explosion at the end of the first series was based on the 1998 Omagh car bombing, and the IRA ceasefire celebrated by Erin and her family actually happened in 1994.

McGee said she only ever heard stories about boys doing raucous things growing up, so wanted to create female characters who were mischievous and unapologetic: “I always think of when you were young, and you heard some story, this boy, or that boy pushed some lad in a trolley down a hill, or whatever. But you’d never meet the fellas who did it, you’d just hear the story.

“I want my girls to be the people who did the thing you heard about. I want them to be the urban myths themselves.”

Our Lady Immaculate College was actually filmed in Belfast (Channel 4)
Our Lady Immaculate College was actually filmed in Belfast (Channel 4)

In a 2019 review, Caroline Magennis said the series was “refreshing and much more interesting than traditional representations of an adolescence marked by violence and sexual repression.”

She added, “during the Troubles, girls laughed, piled their hair high and had rampant crushes. Derry Girls, not a minute too soon, drags that back into the light.”

When it comes to filming locations for the programme, most of the sitcom is shot in the titular city of Derry. The famous scene where the girls walk down the steep hill on their way to school was filmed on Limewood Street in the city, and Denis’ Wee Shop was shot at the nearby Bogside Stores.

The church where the group think the Virgin Mary statue is crying is in not even in Derry (Channel 4)
The church where the group think the Virgin Mary statue is crying is in not even in Derry (Channel 4)

However, some of the scenes were filmed about 70 miles away from the city, in Belfast. For example, Fionnula’s Fish and Chip shop and some of the locations used to create the fictional Our Lady Immaculate College can be found in the capital. The scene where the group believe the Virgin Mary is crying is also shot in Belfast, at the Parish Church of St George.

Earlier this year, writer Matt Selman even confirmed rumours that his “Dairy Girls Ice Cream Parlour” from The Simpsons, was a reference to Derry Girls.

The final season of Derry Girls starts on Channel 4 on Tuesday (12 April).

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting