Jonny Owen is part of a formidable duo who are putting Nottingham firmly on the map. The 46-year-old is the partner (and recently got engaged) of Nottingham actress Vicky McClure who has starred in a host of hit films and TV series, including This is England, Line of Duty and Broadchurch.
Welshman Jonny was born in Merthyr Tydfil in 1971 and it is almost a case of you name it and Jonny has done it.
As a teenager he was a Welsh boxing champion but it was not just sport that he excelled in. His indie band, The Pocket Devils, were signed to labels in the UK and the USA in the 1990s.
The band split when Jonny got his first break in acting in 1999. His acting career took off and he appeared in Channel 4’s British comedy-drama series Shameless, as well as Murphy’s Law and My Family.
At the same time, he started to write drama and documentaries, working extensively with ITV Wales, and he went on to win a Welsh BAFTA for the 40th anniversary documentary of the Aberfan disaster.
Jonny also worked with BBC Sport and is the writer and creator of Svengali, a cult internet series which was later turned into a film.
It was this which led him to meet Vicky and begin a journey which would make Nottingham his home and put him in the hearts of thousands of Nottingham Forest supporters.
“Nottingham is my home now,” he said. “It has been a fantastic city for me and has given me Vicky, a great group of friends and some amazing work which has been really interesting. We moved from London as Vicky was a bit homesick and wanted to move back to Nottingham. I came here and I didn’t really know anybody.
“One of the first things I did, which is quite funny looking back, was I went and watched the football and I remember Vicky going ‘but you don’t know anybody’ and I thought I would soon get to know people. That’s what you do really, you follow a team and you share that passion. I went to a Forest match and got to know people.”
His love of sport, in particular football, led him to be involved in the launch of local television channel Notts TV and the ideas were sown for the award-winning I Believe Miracles – the film telling the story of the remarkable success of Forest under Brian Clough as they were transformed from a side in the second tier of English football to double-winning European Cup champions.
“Vicky introduced me to Craig Chettle who was starting Notts TV and he asked me if I was interested in helping set up the channel and within a few weeks I was helping set up the sports side of things,” Jonny explained.
“One day we were talking and he felt the story of the great Nottingham Forest team of the late 70s and early 80s was an amazing story in the sense of what they achieved and where they had come from.
I spoke to a few of the players; John Robertson, Frank Clark, Garry Birtles and Colin Barrett, who live in the vicinity of the city.
“Initially it was going to be a small thing but quite quickly I realised it was going to be much bigger. I remembered so much stuff from my childhood about Nottingham Forest and thought ‘there’s something in this’.
“From there I took the idea down to London and Craig backed me to take it to some big distribution companies in London. They went for it and it became a film and a massive success. It became a much bigger thing than I expected to be and I knew I needed to get the story right for it to succeed.”
The film was a massive success and was produced right here in Nottingham by Spool Films, with many local residents playing their part in the production of the film which became a hit across the UK on the big screen and with DVD sales.
The success of I Believe in Miracles led to another football film – this time charting the success of Wales at Euro 2016 where they reached a semi-final defeat by Portugal.
“When I went to France no-one expected Wales to do what they did, so I went there just as a fan,” said Jonny. “I wasn’t thinking about making a film and looking back I am pretty glad about that now.
“I would have been worried about shots, coverage, who I spoke to and angles for shots. In some ways it was almost better that I went as a fan, but afterwards the Welsh FA were very good with me and offered me the footage and they had seen what I had done with I Believe In Miracles.
“They handed me the footage and told me to get on with it. They didn’t see the footage until the night of the premiere. It was amazing really. I really enjoyed it and I do them all in Nottingham, so that’s great. They all get edited here in Nottingham.”
But what next for Jonny? One thing he is keen to make clear is that Nottingham will be the base for many of his next moves.
With a whole host of film, television, acting, documentary and production work behind him, what next for the man who has done a bit of everything?
“I am doing another football film, that is the last of the trilogy really,” he said. “Then I will do some drama-based stuff I think. A lot of it will be from Nottingham. There is so much talent in the city it’s incredible.
“Of course there’s someone like Shane Meadows, who everyone knows, and these people stay in Nottingham and that says it all.
“They don’t need to go to London. Media companies like Antenna and Confetti are amazing and are really now on the map.
“The best thing about Nottingham is the people. They are so accommodating. Once they take you in, they can’t do enough for you and I have made friends for life. It is no secret that I love the city and I love its people.”