Welsh broadcaster Lucy Owen is quite simply our ‘Welsh darling’. A veteran in her field, Lucy has been a household face in Wales for over 20 years.
Since 2007 she has presented BBC One Wales’ flagship news programme Wales Today.
So what is it about Lucy that has seen her continuous presence on day time TV go the distance?
As well as the BAFTA award-winning consumer programme ‘X-Ray.’ In the past, she has also made several documentaries, worked as a news presenter for ITV Wales, and been involved in radio broadcasting.
Lucy’s familiarity and down to earth nature is clearly evident. You can tell she is quite simply a Welsh girl through and through. Her humility and professionalism make her a firm favourite and relatable to us viewers.
After growing up in and around Cardiff attending school in Llandaff, Lucy moved away from Wales to study an English degree at Royal Holloway, University of London.
But the big city smoke of London couldn’t keep her away from her Welsh roots and since returning to her home town Lucy has championed Wales, in 2012 she even took part in an S4C programme to promote the learning of Welsh.
As well as her work in broadcast media Lucy has been vocal about the issues with fertility she and husband (fellow Welsh television presenter Rhodri Owen) experienced.
The couple, who were married in 2004, undertook IVF after struggling to conceive and their son, Gabriel, was born in 2008.
Following her own journey, she has looked to help others going through their own fertility journeys, and spoke openly and honestly at a Fertility Network UK event that took place in Cardiff.
Most recently, Lucy has been promoting the launch of her second children’s book The Sea House, inspired by holidays to Barbados, her grandmother’s love of writing, and her own experience of loss during childhood.
The Sea House is a fun adventure story centred around happiness and friendship.
It was a blustery, winter’s day when I sat down with Lucy at the BBC Wales Headquarters in Cardiff. However, the cold weather outside was immediately forgotten thanks to the natural warmth Lucy exudes.
Greeting me with a big smile the ‘Wales Today’ anchor looked laid-back yet polished in jeans, trainers and her signature glossy bob. After choosing a suitably cosy corner, we settled in for a chat about Wales, her work, fertility and The Sea House.
How did you find growing up around Cardiff?
I grew up in Dinas Powys when I was little, my parents separated when I was about six, so I lived with my Mum, and then when I was about 16 we moved to Llandough.
So, Dinas Powys and Cardiff were my main stomping grounds and I always loved Cardiff – I think it’s an incredible city.
We’re so lucky to be here, we’ve got the sea and the countryside all on our doorstep, there’s so much going on.
For x-ray this week we were filming on top of the new Admiral headquarters looking out over the city and I was thinking it was just beautiful.
We have an amazing city developing and emerging. Cardiff now is very different from how I remember it when I was stomping around the shops when I was in my teens going to Miss Selfridge and checking out all the makeup.
It’s really exciting to see how it’s developing and the BBC is getting their new amazing offices right in the centre of Cardiff which we’ll be moving into some time at the beginning of next year.
Gosh, it’s my home city and of course, that’s where I’m going to be at home.
You attended university outside of Wales, how did you find the experience of living there and what made you want to want to return home?
I was at university at Royal Holloway, a part of the University of London, which was in Surrey. One of the reasons I went there was because it was a beautiful building, it reminded me of Hogwarts, it had lovely, beautiful architecture. Also, it’s about half an hour outside London so I felt I could have the best of both worlds.
Then I went travelling after my degree. I went to New Zealand and Australia and I loved it. I gave myself 6 months to get a job when I came back, and if I didn’t get anything I’d move back to Australia.
As it was, I ended up getting a job with BBC Radio Wales. Things developed from there, I have worked in London as well as working in Cardiff. For me, there’s no place like home especially as I had my son here and he’s very much a Welsh boy. It’s all about being back in Wales but I loved the experience of being there.
Had you always been interested in journalism?
When I first started out, which was more than 20 years ago, I was really interested in media, but I didn’t really know what that meant.
Then when I had work experience at BBC Wales which was on a current affairs program that’s where I got the bug. I discovered current affairs in my early 20s and I’ve been immersed in it ever since.
So, you started out as a researcher for a radio show, how did you move into presenting?
I was a researcher on a radio program and then it turned out there was a new lifestyle radio show starting out and I thought “I could give that a go”.
So, the producers told me to come up with an idea and if they liked it they’d teach me how to use the kit and how to edit it. If they liked it when it was done they’d broadcast it. I had my first report going out on Radio Wales about tourism in Majorca which was great.
Nine months after reporting on Radio Wales I heard about a screen test going for a morning presenting job at ITV (HTV as it was then).
I wasn’t nervous because I thought I didn’t have a chance, so I just figured I’d go along and do it, and then they called me back.
That’s when I thought I might have a chance and got really nervous and stumbled my way through it… or so I thought. But miraculously they offered me the job and I was there for about 13 years.
News presenting can be hard work with difficult hours, what keeps you excited about it?
Well, I work with an amazing team, that’s one of the absolute joys of it. They’re so dedicated, so brilliant, I feel like I learn from them every day.
There’s always a different story, you never know what you’re going to find when you come into the office which means you never know what the day’s going to hold, that’s exciting.
Also, when you’re in the studio there’s the element of it being live. When you’ve done presenting as long as I have you think you know all the pitfalls, all the things that could go wrong – but there’s always something new that surprises me. So you’ve always got that bit of jeopardy about being in the studio.
It’s a privilege to be in people’s living rooms, that never goes away that sense of how lucky I am to be doing this job, it builds with every year that goes past how hugely privileged I am.
Plus, there are developments all the time, the way that we gather news has changed, the technology behind it has changed, we’re moving to the new building where sets are going to be very different and feature things like virtual reality. It’s going to be a very different way of working. That keeps everything new and fresh as well.
And gosh how can you get bored with everything that’s going on at the moment in Wales, the UK and the world. It’s always exciting, it’s always rewarding.
Your job requires a more professional work wardrobe but how would you describe your personal style outside of work?
I look at my wardrobe sometimes and I think I’m looking at three different people. I see my news stuff, I’ve got lots of smart, work dresses or jackets.
Then I’ve got the stuff I wear for X-ray, a lot more casual, a lot more street, urban, more warm coats for outside. Then I see the “chill-out” me which is very scruffy, jeans and a sweater.
The thing that I really love wearing though? I host quite a few events and there’s nothing I love more than big sparklygowns. If I could walk around in beautiful sparkly tulle gowns all the time that would be my dream.
Could you tell us a bit about your fertility journey?
I remember Rhod and I trying to conceive and it just not happening. After years of trying not to get pregnant, you never think that you’re going to have problems yourself.
You hear a lot about fertility issues, we do talk about that a lot more now, but you never think it’s going to be you, but it was me and it was an utter shock.
I had a laparoscopy to try and see what the problem was and then I was told the best chance of conceiving would be through IVF.
I remember thanking all the staff and holding it together, and then went into the car park and burst into tears thinking about how this could be the start of an absolute rollercoaster which could last years.
We decided we’d have three goes at IVF and then if it didn’t happen we would look at other ways of having a child. As it was IVF did work for us.
I was straight on the case to find out where I could have treatment and I went up to London to do it privately, you know we were lucky we could afford to do that, lots of people aren’t in that position.
By July I found out I was pregnant. I wouldn’t consider myself particularly fortunate, it was very hard at the time.
I had to deal with those emotions and the thoughts that I may never be a mother, I suppose that’s still with me now and I still feel incredibly blessed.
The process was incredibly stressful and emotional for me. I used to fall asleep in the doctor’s waiting room at the clinic.
I think it was a stress thing, it was so much to deal with that I’d just shut down. It was really weird.
But compared to what other people go through I was very lucky, I’ve spoken to people who have been through this processfor a much longer period.
Everyone has their own journey; it can be a long arduous run or it can be short and sharp, it doesn’t make it any less valid. But I’m aware that I’m lucky, I’ve got a beautiful child and I’m so happy with him.
What helped you to keep going during this time?
My husband was amazing during this time. When I realized it was me who had the health issue that could potentially prevent us from having children, the fact that he just said, “it’s okay whatever happens it will be okay” really helped take the pressure off.
I felt guilty but he made it clear that whatever happened he was going to be there and be okay with it, and that really did help.
I suppose hope keeps you going as well.
What would you say to someone going through issues with fertility at the moment?
Well I remember going into the clinic once and there was this woman there with her baby and part of me was thinking, “wow that’s amazing I’m really happy for you” but the other part was thinking, “gosh that might never be me”.
I was probably staring and she came up to me and said, “Don’t give up. I was told there was a 99.9% chance that I would never have a child, and this is my 0.1% right here.” That was amazing.
You have so many mixed feelings, it’s such an emotional rollercoaster so I would say, to keep the faith and hope that it happens. Maybe it happens maybe it doesn’t happen but you know there are lots of avenues to becoming a parent.
What’s your opinion on surrogacies or other forms of becoming a parent?
I think it’s up to each couple to decide what’s right for them. There are lots of different options and we live in an age where science is still developing all the time.
I have friends who have adopted children who are absolutely wonderful, and I think that’s the route we would’ve gone down had IVF not worked for us.
Your second book is coming out in April. Can you tell us a little about it?
I’m so excited about it, it’s called The Sea House. It’s published by Firefly which is a small Welsh independent publishers, who are amazing, they’re really punching above their weight so it’s a thrill that they’ve taken it on board.
The book is aimed at 6-9 year olds and it’s about a little girl called Coral who’s going through a difficult time. She loses her parents and one night she cries so much she fills the whole house up with tears and creates an underwater sea world.
She finds these amazing fish who become her best friends – many of the characters are named after people I met on my holidays in Barbados.
It’s full of fun and music, but at the same time there’s an evil, scary stingray who lives under the kitchen.
Really it’s about her internal struggle but it’s played out through the sea house. She’s trying to overcome her darkness – the Stingray – and find happiness again.
I’m hoping it’s quite fun, there’s some greatcharacters. What made it even better is I got to work with a Cardiff based illustrator called Rebecca Harry.
She’s amazing and she’s done the most beautiful job of bringing the book to life. Even though I had it clearly in my head sometimes actually seeing it illustrated on the page I felt like, “yes that’sexactly what I was thinking.”
Where did the inspiration for the book come from?
I lost my Dad, he drowned when I was 16, and Coral loses both her parents. Understanding her emotions really coloured it for me and I dedicated it to my Dad and to Gabriel.
It only struck me half way through writing, thinking about losing him and what that’s like to go throughand how you find a way through it.
So really I think the book’s about finding your way through a tough time, and in this case it’s bereavement, but it can be through anything. We all have those battles inside ourselves don’t we.
What would you tell a young Lucy Owen?
Oh my gosh! I would say to follow your dreams. When I wanted to start out in broadcasting, in journalism, lots of people would say how difficult it is to get into it.
You talk about writing and people say oh gosh that’s really hard.
So, I would say to my younger self to go for it and to do what makes you happy at the end of the day.
Quick Fire Questions
What are you currently reading?
The Sea House
What are you currently listening to?
My son’s really into bands at the moment, and I end up listening with him. He’s into The Beatles, Drake, so really quite random stuff.
For me I really just like a bit of upbeat pop so I’d go for a bit of Jess Glynn, she puts me in a good mood.
What’s your biggest extravagance?
Sparkly, beautiful evening wear.
What’s your biggest fashion faux pas?
This is so embarrassing. When I was younger I got really into the kids from Fame, I wore a white leotard, a full pink length to the floor net tutu thing, and all the other kids were in jeans and t-shirts. I was in full Fame mode, leg warmers to boot.
What’s your philosophy to live by?
Be kind, treat people well, be happy and try to make those around you happy as well.
The Sea House can be pre-ordered from www.fireflypress.co.ukand will be available in book shops (including Waterstones, WHSmith and amazon.co.uk) from the 11thApril 2019.
Enjoy this interview? Why not check out our interview with Sophie and Hannah Pycroft of Spectrum Collections here.
Photographer – Justin Harris
Location – The Exchange Hotel, Cardiff.