When I started watching this BBC show on Friday, I thought it was going to be something like Grand Designs infused with elements of The Apprentice; big ideas and much hiring, firing and yelling. And it was all those things, but there was something else – some magical component that made me actually interested to see how this all works out…
And I suspect it’s because of the charisma of the man at the centre of the whole shebang, Mark Fuller.
The programme follows Mark as he oversees – and in large part, finances – the building of a luxury hotel in London’s Soho. It’s to be a rock ‘n’ roll themed hotel for which no expense is to be spared in kitting every nook and cranny out with luxury and contemporary fixtures and fittings. And in Friday’s first outing of this show, the build was months behind schedule and the only light at the end of the tunnel was in fact a financial oncoming train…
With the original budget all but a tiny speck in the long gone distance and costs spiralling ever upward, I couldn’t help but get sweaty palms as I watched Mark and fellow investor John going over the figures and seeing the word RUIN writ large but invisible on a spreadsheet.
Again, I’d expected to dislike Mark and his grand idea of building a hotel in which celebs and stars would hang out in lavish luxury while the rest of us schmucks are struggling to pay our mortgages every month. But it’s nigh on impossible to dislike the man.
In theory, he should be a sleazy git; a bit Stringfellowish, given he’s the owner of a club where any female over a size 8 probably won’t get in, but he’s really not. And for the main part, I spent most of the show willing the guys and girls who were building his hotel to just hurry up and get on with it, because Mark had everything he owned on the line because of it.
Another rather surprising thing about Mark is that aside from his business persona, he’s a pretty average family man, and that made him more endearing. The show was being filmed over Christmas last year and – just like husbands up and down the country – we saw Mark digging out decorations and inflating gaudy Santas and snowmen.
However, Christmas was not bringing in the amount of money it usually did at any of Mark’s ventures, which included a club and a small country hotel. He was facing the possibility of cutting back on staff in the New Year, and it was a prospect which he clearly wasn’t comfortable with.
But, when it came to decisions about Sanctum – the name of the new hotel – Mark wasn’t prepared to accept compromise. His project managers complained that many of the delays were caused by Mark changing his mind over the layout and adding or taking away from the original plans. His financial controller said that someone else who’d had his job had committed suicide and his interior designer was trying very hard to convince him that the wallpaper he’d spent £15,000 on – to cover just nine rooms – was in fact a good idea when Mark wanted it pulled off and replaced.
It truly was addictive viewing and I cannot wait for next week’s show. And, being one of those people who sometimes just has to read the last few pages of a book before the rest of it, I Googled Sanctum and found it… Here’s the website for the hotel, and it certainly does look stunning.
I tried to click on the Reservations link to see what it costs to stay at Sanctum, but I was taken to an error page. I could call I guess, but that feels a bit mental…
Anyway, if you missed it, you can see it on iPlayer here, and it’s definitely worth watching.