One year in the life of a new primary school and its pupils, growing up on the edges of an unfinished housing development; telling a story of modern Ireland. St Francis of Assisi, Belmayne had just over 30 pupils, coming from a dozen nationalities, when filming started. A year later the school boosts over 80 children from 18 nationalities.
In the midst of economic recession and adult worries about mortgages, employment and money the children’s world centres on friendships and their teachers. The school principal is Assumpta Kerins, a first time principal keen to create something special. Its a Catholic school and the seasons are marked by religious moments including St Francis of Assisi Day when the children bring their pets for a blessing from the local parish priest Fr Eoin. Not all of the children are Catholic. Many parents are newcomers to Ireland but want a religious ethos in the school and choose it over the non-denominational school next door. Helen Fields is the assistant principal; a young teacher with a passion for what she does. She comes from a family of teachers and her mother, a retired teacher, volunteers on a permanent basis in the school running the office while Assumpta teaches junior infants.
The older classrooms are multi-grade with different ages and classes together; like a country school in the heart of Dublin’s northside development sprawl. ‘Welcome to Gorgeous Living’ the estate placards still read echoing back to Belmayne’s launch at the height of the boom while across the year houses remain empty or wasteland rests untouched.
‘Belmayne: Gorgeous Living’ is an insight in a moment of change in Ireland reflected through the eyes and experiences of the school-children, aged 4-12, who take part in this documentary. It is observational in character following the journey of the school across a year from first day to end of June farewells; witnessing their world which usually stays unseen and unrecorded. A funny, moving and uplifting film which captures the innocence and wonder of the children as well as the tensions and realities of the adult world around them.
Principal Camera & Editing: Barry MacNeill,
Second camera: Ross Killeen & Sean Sweeney.
Production support: Sean Sweeney, Niall Brew, Anita Walsh, Paula Cunniffe, Lisa Essuman and Leon O Neill.
Original Music: Rob Hope, Mark Gavin and Michael Gallen
Audio Editor Amy Millar
Produced by Helen Shaw
Directed by Helen Shaw and Barry MacNeill