Michael Baker obituary | Theatre


My brother, Michael Baker, who has died aged 71 after a long illness, was one of the most popular and influential figures on the Welsh drama scene. He played a significant role in shaping the Welsh theatre landscape into what it is today.

Born in Stamford, Lincolnshire, Michael was the eldest of three children of Mary (nee Bishop), a primary school head, and Wing Cdr Maurice Baker, who after leaving the RAF became a teacher. From Abingdon school in Oxfordshire, where he was a boarder, Michael went to what is now Cardiff University to study philosophy, politics and economics.

In 1972 Michael and his lifelong friend Mike Pearson formed the renowned Rat theatre, for which he directed and performed. Rat (Ritual and Tribal) theatre productions became standardbearers for a radical, energetic, sparse and frighteningly cruel theatre that often left its performers bruised, cut and bloodied, and its audiences in various levels of “catharsis”. Over the next few years the company toured Europe to great acclaim.

At what is now the University of South Wales Michael undertook teacher training, and he went on to be head of drama at Radyr comprehensive school, Cardiff. In 1981 he got married, and shortly afterwards his only child, Tomos, was born. The marriage would later end in divorce. Michael became a drama officer at the Welsh Arts Council, and eventually drama director and then director of art form development up until the early 2000s.

Bright and knowledgable, Michael was a great communicator and negotiator. He learned Welsh and became a friend and mentor to many artists and theatre-makers during his career. He was instrumental in the Arts Council’s drive for theatre in Wales to be recognised internationally, and was a key figure in the formation and funding of the two national theatres of Wales, working in English and Welsh respectively.

Later, while living in Mold, Flintshire, Michael formed an arts consultancy, Michael Baker Associates, working on projects in Wales and abroad.

In 2009 Michael was diagnosed with dementia.

In 1987 he met Cheryl Nance, and they married in 2002. She survives him, as do Tomos, his sister, Elizabeth, and me.

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