‘An Shandon’, a fly on the wall documentary series, provides a behind the scenes look at the Shandon hotel, in Donegal, where the staff have as much craic as the guests.
Across four episodes viewers will be immersed into what really goes on in the back corridors of a successful hotel.
In episode 1 we meet Claudine, the sister of the hotel’s new owner Warren. With great secrecy, brother and sister conspire to arrange a 70th surprise birthday party for their mother Breda, who is originally from the area.
The new owners’ mother is unaware of the work that has gone into preparing her birthday present, but will the family and hotel staff manage to keep the big secret under wraps?
A 4-star Hotel, ‘An Shandon’ takes great pride in its reputation. However, a reputation must be constantly guarded and protected, as General manager, Carolynne, is acutely aware of.
The latest Fáilte Ireland inspection takes place in episode 2, with no stone left uncovered. Renovations are still underway to upgrade the hotel, a key part of their ambitious plan – but will the hotel retain its 4-star status?
Carolynne reflects on her decision to grant full access to the film crew: "We were very keen on the idea of letting the TV cameras in until they actually were in, then it became a little scary, particularly when we had only recently opened and we had major works going on throughout the resort in addition to a brand new team, new equipment and a time of significant pressure, because we were all learning as we went along!
"Nothing was staged, it’s just day to day life in the Shandon hotel from behind the scenes and I think it makes for great TV because it’s all real!
"Throughout the team we have some fantastic characters and I am confident that the viewer will grow very fond of those involved in the show."
Two of these colourful characters that play a central part in the series are kitchen staff Maureen and Josie.
Breakfast chef Maureen is very keen to see how she come across on camera: "At first we were all very nervous when the cameras were in, but Carolynne encouraged us to just ignore them and work away like we always do!
"I’ve been told that the first show features the birthday party of Mrs McCarthy, I’m so excited to see that because my youngest Charlie danced for her, so hopefully that will be in it."
In the kitchen with Maureen we find Gortahork native Josie, one of the newest members of the team. Needless to say Josie was slightly anxious when the cameras were following him: "To be honest, I can’t even remember half of the things that were caught on camera and I haven’t seen it so goodness knows what is coming our way!
"It was a tough time for me because it had been a while since I managed such a large team, my head was spinning trying to keep up with how busy the Shandon kitchens were, so I had no time to worry about a TV camera watching me!
"Regardless, I’m sure that it will be great for the area and for the Shandon, the more mishaps and crazy things captured, the better – at least it will be funny to watch!"
Filmed over the course of a year, the programme makers had a challenge deciding which storylines to feature, such was the quality and authenticity of the footage.
In episode 3 we remind ourselves of Storm Ophelia, the great storm that had the country talking. How did it affect the staff and guests of ‘An Shandon’? The bar certainly looked inviting as the wind and rain bashed the North West coast.
Also in episode 3, as the Harvest Rally comes to town, we see spa worker Paula leave essential oils behind as she oils her engine in preparation to compete in her first ever rally.
The series concludes as we meet Liam and Mark, who in light of the recent Marriage Equality referendum, are celebrating their love for each other in their favourite hotel.
Working in a hotel is much more than pulling pints and cooking goujons however, as the staff let their hair down on a fun away day.
Throughout the series we watch on as a business pushes itself to grow and transform through every obstacle thrown in its way.
Can they keep both their staff and customers happy through such turbulent times? And in the end will their big vision for the hotel become a reality?
Summing up her team’s experience on the show, Hotel Manager Carolynne said: "I’m super proud of my entire team for being such good sports for the year that we were being filmed, it’s not easy coming to work with the knowledge that you have a busy day ahead, never mind that on top of that, you’ll have a TV crew following you around!
"I have to commend them all for their enthusiasm and support of the show!"
If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Donegal Now editorial team. Between 9am and 5pm Monday to Sunday please call 074 9112712. Between 5pm and midnight please call or text 086 792 2103. Or you can email [email protected] at any time.