Scoil Bhríde documentary is an unexpected COVID-19 time capsule

The exploits of a group of Galway primary school pupils have unwittingly become a time capsule for the consequences of COVID-19.

Giant Steps is a documentary directed by Des Kilbane and was set to feature students from 6th class of Scoil Bhríde Shantalla in Galway City as they prepare to participate in events related to Galway2020.

“The best laid plans went out the window when Covid struck,” Des explained.

The original idea was to follow the students as they prepared to graduate from primary school. It would culminate with students participating in a tight rope walk across the Corrib river in conjunction with Galway Community Circus and Galway2020.

“The walk never happened. There was a lot of disappointments for those kids.”

“They never got to graduate which is a big event in primary school. It’s as big for them as it is for us to graduate college”, he said.

Scoil Bhríde Shantalla, Galway

Filming was halted for six months and Des said, “we really didn’t know if we could finish it”.

But hope was not lost, and the film was restructured to account for students experiences of Covid-19.

“There was silver lining to the thing in a sense. We got the kids back to the school to see how they coped with Covid and how they were getting on in secondary school.”

“We got a different story. A documentary is about real people so of course things change, but I’ve never had anything as disruptive as Covid,” he added.

Scoil Bhríde principal Frank Keane said that film was a great success and that it is “something lovely to remember” for these kids who did not get to graduate.

The school has a history with filmmaking winning several Fresh Film awards in the past.

“When it comes to moviemaking it’s like a blockbuster here. It’s like an Oscar winning movie,” he said.

Scoil Bhríde is one of 15 Ashoka Changemaker schools in Ireland and would be classified as a DEIS Band 1 disadvantaged school with nearly 50% of students coming from Traveller backgrounds.

Principal Keane said the four building blocks in changemaker schools are “empathy, creativity, leadership and teamwork”.

“Things like film encourage students to be active and creative citizens who want to make their homes and their community better places,” he said.

The school applied for the project with the Small Towns Big Ideas strand of Galway 2020 who helped to support it.

“They supported the school 100%. They got us funding when we needed it and they really wanted to make a success of this,” he said.

The school is part of an Erasmus project with four different schools across Europe. One in Greece, Portugal, Italy and Turkey, so they “wanted to do something as part of the Capital of Culture”.

“Our big plan was do a cinema launch and dress in tuxedos, but we’ll do that again, we’ll honour it when we can,” he added.

Giant Steps is available to watch online for free on the Galway2020 website and will remain there until March 21.

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