Dr Mark Baker hoping ‘I’m a Celeb’ boosts £5m funding plan


December 01, 2020

A former Rydal Penrhos pupil is hoping the recent fame found by Gwrych Castle can spearhead a multi-million-pound grant bid to further enhance the redevelopment project.

Dr Mark Baker, who attended Rydal Penrhos from 1996-2003, has made it his lifelong ambition to restore the castle to its former glory after first becoming enchanted by the Grade I Listed site going to and from school as an 11-year-old.

An exceptional effort from Dr Baker and the Gwrych Castle Trust has brought the picturesque castle back to life and it hit the headlines in a big way by being selected as the venue for the popular reality television show ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!’, which is unable to use their usual location in Australia due to ongoing travel concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to Tatler magazine, Dr Baker revealed that the next stage of the project – once the dust has settled following the show’s conclusion – is to try and secure £5 million in National Lottery funding that will enable the Trust to begin work on the main house, which hasn’t been available to the public since 1985.

He said: “Next year we can hopefully get the main house roofed and glazed. It’ll be the first time that people will have been able to go in since 1985. It’s been a long journey, but well worth it.”

The Trust is receiving £300,000 from ITV to host the show, which began earlier this month and attracts millions of viewers from across the country and beyond.

More importantly, it has put Gwrych Castle on the map, creating hundreds of jobs for the local community which was something Dr Baker was keen to stipulate before agreeing to terms with show bosses.

‘The production is creating around 700 jobs, from cleaners to technicians. Many people in the arts and local theatre who lost their jobs because of Covid now have work – it’s been a lifeline for many,” added Dr Baker.

The trust bought the castle from a hotel company in 2018 after raising £1 million in just six days, and a substantial effort enabled its grounds to be opened to the public soon after.

Dr Baker’s project has been aided by Rydal Penrhos pupils over the years, with the school’s community action days seeing various year groups spend time at the castle assisting with the clean-up project.