Home: Filming: Filming 1997

My first visit to the Ballykissangel set was in June 1997. I'd spent a couple of days prior to that sleeping on a pavement in south London (queuing for the tennis at Wimbledon) and then set off on my main adventure of the summer.

I arrived on the second (and last) bus to Avoca in the evening and was dropped off at the real bus stop, just outside the village. Too late to visit the village, so I left it until the next day and went to the hotel (the Vale View). Comfortingly, a signed production sheet hung on the wall in reception.

The next morning I went back into the village to find the crew already hard at work on a shoot behind the Avoca Inn. They offered me tea and cream cakes... I like these people! The weather in Avoca was cold and drizzly and by the way the crew dress for filming, they're obviously prepared.

As you probably know, not all of the locations in the series are actually in Avoca. The interior of Fitzgerald's, for instance, is actually a studio set in Bray (see 'Ardmore 1999' filming report). The only interiors used for filming in Avoca are the church and Hendley's shop.

The days filming starts early, with the cast arriving an hour or so before filming is due to start so they can get through costume and make-up in time. The production units are mainly based on the other side of the river, with a couple of rigger's vans being moved up to the church whenever necessary. One familiar vehicle is the yellow minibus which has been used a couple of times in the show (The Reckoning and River Dance). In this case it's used to ferry the cast from the production base to the church.

Mid-morning it starts to get a bit hectic. The tourism the show has created now obstructs the filming somewhat and visitors have to be kept behind crush barriers to keep them out of shot. Photography is banned during filming, but you have plenty of time for photos between takes and during rehearsals.

Strangely, Avoca doesn't really push the Ballykissangel side of its persona. There's a bit of BallyK merchandise (although I'm told that's almost totally disappeared since I was last there), but they are keen to promote the area as it is. The area has benefited from the show's popularity, with tourism bringing plenty of money to the community, but they are now looking at setting up a museum to chronicle the mining days of the area.

Most of the scenes I saw being filmed were from the episodes 'As Happy As A Turkey On Boxing Day', 'Lost Sheep' and 'I Know When I'm Not Wanted'. As it's not filmed in sequence and the scenes you see are not necessarily from the same episode, you don't know the whole story before it's broadcast.

I met most members of the cast during my trip and kept bumping into Gary Whelan and Peter Caffrey in the pub. Stephen Tompkinson knew me by this time and came over for a little chat between scenes. In retrospect I'm hugely grateful that I managed to meet Tony Doyle and Birdy Sweeney during my visit. Even a short time in their presence made it clear how well liked they were by the public, cast and crew.

The majority of photographs you see on this site were taken during this visit.

Ardmore Studios 1999


Rebecca Stunell 2000
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