The reality television show I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! will return to the small north Wales town of Abergele for a second year, sparking joy from local businesses but concern from animal welfare champions.
ITV’s popular show was set in the austere surroundings of Gwrych Castle last year after the Covid pandemic made it impossible for it to be staged in its normal milieu – the Australian bush.
Something of an I’m a Celebrity … frenzy hit the town, with many shopkeepers decorating their premises with images of the show’s hosts, Ant and Dec, and fans flocking to the area.
But there was concern that the show’s use of animals including cockroaches was cruel and could lead to non-native species escaping into the Welsh countryside.
On Monday ITV said the 21st series would return to Gwrych Castle with a new cast of celebrities. It gave few details but said the contestants would undertake “gruelling trials and action-packed challenges to win food and treats”.
Katie Rawcliffe, ITV’s head of entertainment commissioning, said: “We’ve always said we have contingencies in place for the series if the Covid situation continued to bring uncertainty, and after a highly successful run at the castle last year we’re pleased that we can return there. I have no doubt the production team will produce another hugely entertaining series.”
Mark Baker, the chair of the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust, said the return of I’m A Celebrity … would help support the site’s ongoing restoration and give the region an economic boost.
The Welsh government’s deputy minister for arts and sport, Dawn Bowden, said: “This is excellent news and we look forward to welcoming the I’m a Celebrity … team back to Wales this year, and to working with them to make it an even better year.”
Julie Bright, the manager of the Pen-y-Bont Inn in Abergele, said the announcement was “amazing”. Last year the pub staged its take on the “bushtucker trials” the celebrities usually have to face, offering mini-locust burgers and cricket cocktails.
“It was such a boost for the town last year when we were having such a difficult time,” said Bright. “People can plan even bigger and better events this time. We’ll certainly be pulling out all the stops.”
The television presenter and naturalist Iolo Williams led the complaints last year against the use of live animals in the show. He said on Monday: “I’m pleased that I’m a Celebrity … is helping to put north Wales on the map, but still gravely concerned that they’re using live animals for entertainment.”
He also repeated his concerns that non-native species could be “extremely damaging” if they escaped. ITV said last year the species it used were non-invasive, were only ever released in a contained area and collected immediately after filming and were purchased commercially within the UK and were normally bred as animal food.