If you haven’t watched the first episode of Grá Ar An Trá – what are you waiting for?!
The new reality show is akin to Love Island with an Irish twist.
It’s led by host Gráinne Seoige, who acts as the ‘Cinnire Grá’, and James Kavanagh and Síomha Ní Ruairc, who are the ‘Bean agus Man an Tí’ – gas!
The show takes place in the Gaeltacht, and follows a number of young, single Irish people embarking on a journey to find love, brush up on their Gaeilge, and be in with the chance to win a cash prize of €10,000.
In the first episode we met our couples. Each pairing has one fluent Irish speaker and one aspiring Gaeilgeoir.
The couples are at risk of elimination if they don’t help each other out to become the ‘couple with the most focail’. Iconic!
It’s early days in the Love Teach so far, but there’s already been a sneaky kiss, a sports day challenge, some cheeky banter, and the surprise arrival of a brand new couple.
Ahead of tonight’s episode, we caught up with Grá Ar An Trá’s contestant Femi Bankole to get the tea on what went down behind the scenes, how everyone’s been getting on since the show wrapped filming – and whether we might get to see him on any future dating shows!
As for why he was interested in the show, Femi says that the Irish element is what hooked him.
“That was kind of the draw for me. I actually spent the last few years being obsessed with Kneecap, who are a band who rap as Gaeilge.
“I always felt, even amongst my mates, like a re-emergence of the language…so I thought this sounds like a lán craic, might as well throw myself into it!”
Femi shared that he was reassured by a producer that the show would be just like the Gaeltacht, after he asked whether it would be like Love Island – but that it wasn’t exactly what he’d been prepared for.
“We arrive at the place…there’s cameras everywhere – I’m like… this is Love Island, it’s literally Love Island, you lied to me!” he laughed.
“There was cameras everywhere,” he went on, “but you get weirdly used to them. It’s very difficult for you to almost not be yourself in that environment, because there’s so many people, so much going on – you’re actually just engrossed in the process of learning Irish that you just settle into yourself.”
So, how did everyone actually get on within the Love Teach? Femi shares that while he “got along with everyone”, there were at times some conflicting opinions.
“You can’t have twelve people in a gaff and not expect some personality clashes…a lot has gone on this Summer since [filming], definitely some clashes in personality!”
Of course, the show is all about love, but were there any real love connections? Femi is careful not to give anything away with his answer.
He stresses that all of his fellow contestants were “open to getting to know each other”, but cryptically adds that over time some of those relationships have either “faltered” or “got stronger”.
“Some of the connections…have seen the challenges of time.” Intriguing!
As for whether he’s still going strong in his couple with Saoirse or not, only time will tell. But Femi tells us that he went into the show open to “pursuing things with the right person.” Still, he admits at times he found it a little cringe having to get to know someone while being filmed.
“There’s a teaser for the next episode…I gave myself the ick, I felt sick! I remember going up to Saoirse saying, ‘do you like me?’–” he jokingly gags at himself.
It seems as though the pair were a good match though – especially considering that Femi likes a lady with multiple languages!
“I love someone that has an affinity for languages. It’s not just the language…there’s all the culture…and the personality that comes with that as well. That’s something that I really love.”
As for his own grasp of Gaeilge, Femi tells us that he’s more “confident than ever.”
He shares that it helped to “[take] away the academic aspect and turn it functional.”
“I’m Nigerian as well, and we speak Yoruba. Even when my mum who is fully fluent is speaking Yoruba to me, she throws in English words. That’s what happened in the Teach,” Femi explains.
“When I’m speaking Irish, I’m so empowered to be like, if I don’t know the right way to say this phrase, or the grammatical structure for this…I’ll just throw in the English word.
“The whole point of language and communication is that you can articulate yourself, that someone can understand what you’re trying to say. If you have to throw a mix of languages in there while you become proficient in a language, that’s totally fine.”
We can’t help but ask, considering how much he enjoyed himself – is this the beginning of Femi’s reality TV career? Might we see him on Love Island next?
“No, I think we all need to relax there!” he laughs. When it comes to watching himself back, he’s in two minds about it.
“I’m stuck between two places now being like, ‘I was there so I don’t need to watch this’, and being like ‘this is gas – if I wasn’t in this, I’d watch it.’ But I’m watching myself being like ‘oh my god’…so I don’t think I’m built for reality TV!”
So there you have it! We might not get Femi on Love Island just yet, but we can enjoy seeing how the rest of his Grá Ar An Trá journey pans out.
Tune in to the second episode of ‘Grá ar an Trá’ tonight at 9pm on Virgin Media One and Virgin Media Player and catch the first episode on Virgin Media Player.