I found this in my drafts.. never posted it, but now people need some cheering up, here’s a story for you.
Headship is a funny business. Sometimes things don’t go quite as you might expect. This little episode happened in the summer of 2012 when I was a Headteacher. With budget pressures growing, we were keen to expand our facilities rental income so when the The Only Way Is Essex production team contacted our Business Manager, it seems like a good opportunity to put our facilities ‘out there’. They wanted to use the school as a set over a weekend, earning us about £2000. We thought it might be fun… what could go wrong?
The set-up for Episode 10, Series 6 included using our front entrance like the entrance to a grand venue of some kind with the school hall and traditional quads providing the background for Lucy’s ‘prom-themed party’. The shoot happened one summer weekend and I didn’t hear much about it. The remnants of the party scene were still there on Monday – just some balloons still to be retrieved from the ceiling in the hall; no big drama.
But then came the time for the programme to go on air. It was in August – in that window around results time. Our Business Manager called me to alert me to the schedule and I put out a message to parents – as promised – so they’d know when to watch. Just a bit of fun.
And then we watched….. Oh My God!
The early part of the scene was fine… quite fun to see flash cars pulling up at the main entrance with the reality stars stepping out. The quad scenes were fun too… a hilarious row between two characters just across from the English rooms where students normally lined up for lunch.
But then came The Biggest Cringe…
Lucy’s party was in full swing….
As they went into the hall, there was this enormous ice torso, a male figure with a HUGE ice phallus! Watching at home… I jumped up. What is that doing in our hall???
But it got worse. Lucy’s boyfriend invited her to have a drink… yup, you’ve guessed it…. by licking the enormous ice phallus… suggestively, in full close-up. You have got to be kidding me??!!
The phone rang… It was the Business Manager. Oh My God, Oh My God.. are you seeing this???? We were laughing in that manic-panic way you do…. It felt like we’d basically invited the whole school community to watch simulated felatio in the school hall on national TV. And there was nothing we could do…. except hope that nobody was watching.
The next day there were a few raised eyebrows in the staffroom… what were you thinking? What did you expect? I had to admit that I hadn’t really watched TOWIE enough to anticipate what might happen. But as it turned out, evidently the school community were not big TOWIE fans either. We got away with it. No corrupted souls; reputational damage – minimal! In fact, hardly anyone appeared to have seen it. Phew.
Just to follow up I asked the site manager whether he’d seen all this at the time? It turns out that, that weekend, they had just left the film crew to it but arrived early on the Monday to clear up. To their great surprise and amusement, what they found was a huge ice torso with phallus, still melting, standing proud on the grass next to the main drive, dumped by the film crew. With students arriving shortly, they’d had to get some shovels to smash it up before they arrived – which partly explained why they hadn’t had time to take the balloons down. They thought I’d be better off not knowing…. Which would have been true if it hadn’t then been broadcast to a million people on ITV2!
We laughed about it for ages…. how, in our minds, for a few hours, we’d come close to shaming this venerable institution for a quick buck and a taste of the tawdry world of TOWIE …and we more or less lost our appetite for pushing the facilities rentals. Too risky. I never watched TOWIE again. Too painful/shameful.