“It is important to just roll up your sleeves and just get stuck in”, says Toby Brown, community volunteer, talented thespian and successful local business owner. As we sit in the Troubadour, sipping a pretty spectacular coffee from their recently acquired state-of the art-coffee machine (a sign that things are on the up), we discuss how local businesses can promote their products and services to residents, while, at the same time, make a positive difference to the fabric of community life.
Caffeine consumed, it becomes quite clear, quite quickly, that a hands-on approach is what is required to make a positive difference. “Businesses in Earl’s Court are always being asked to donate for this, that and the other, and it can become a never-ending and expensive exercise. However, contributing to the community is not always about taking out an advert, printing a flyer, donating cash, food or drinks.” A self confessed accidental estate agent, Toby Brown is the co-owner of the highly successful independent estate agent in the Earl’s Court area, TLC, and knows how to make community support work for everyone. His uncle before him had the same ethos, so TLC has been at the forefront of community support for over three decades.
“We know and love the area we live and work in, and we know the people that are making a difference. My business partner Jamie Coronna and I made a decision many years ago that we would not spend our marketing budget on traditional advertising, rather we invest in the community. As a result of this, commercial goodwill has followed, possibly at a slower pace, but this is the way we like to work. “We sponsor school events, host community garden parties for residents, bring cupcakes to cake sales, blow up balloons at Auction Nights, arrange the Christmas lights and choirs, stuff goody bags for Santa Grottos. We host a number of garden parties, theatre and film events annually, and are always happy to support a good cause.
“Basically anything we can do to help support local charities and the organisations that make up the fabric of Earl’s Court, we are happy to chip in. Not just because this is good marketing exposure, but because we genuinely care about the neighbourhood and the people that live here. “Going to events, volunteering skills, time and resources can be of great benefit.
Getting out there and making an effort to engage with local community groups has serious value, on both a personal and commercial level. “This applies to locally-based independent businesses, in particular, as they have a strong vested interest in long-term development of our area. By connecting with local influencers you can make a difference and boost your company’s visibility, simultaneously. “The best way to connect with the people that live close to your business is to give of yourself – to volunteer at events, being there to speak to your friends and show your local clients that you want to help and that you care about what happens in Earl’s Court. That way you build enduring relationships that improve the community you live in.”
A graduate of the University of the Arts London’s Drama Centre London, Toby waxes lyrical about community theatre projects. “The value of amateur dramatics from a community building perspective is enormous,” he says. The Earl’s Courtiers for example, of which he is a leading member, work with children and adults, teaching them how to act and produce local shows. Toby’s recent theatre project, the production and direction of the Wizard of Oz in Barkston Gardens, follows the outstanding success of other garden performances, including Alice in Wonderland (2016), Much Ado About Nothing (2015) and Twelfth Night (2014).
“More than 1,000 local residents enjoyed our Wizard of Oz show over a four night run, and with a cast and crew running to almost 100 people, we really have involved every segment of the Earl’s Court community,” he says. The production that saw 45 local children perform to a professional standard, in no small part down to the performance coaching and acting prowess of Toby Brown. “Rehearsing for our summer garden plays is honestly the best part of my day. We have been rehearsing for weeks now, but I have loved every minute.
If I was not selling houses, I would love to be a teacher. Maybe some day I will do this full time – it makes me so happy. “Encouraging a timid child to transform into a roaring witch or a giggling Munchkin is a great feeling. Some children learn naturally, but others need group encouragement. Watching performance confidence grow is a wonderful thing.”
If you would like to learn more about volunteering in your community or getting involved with the Earl’s Courtiers for future theatre performances, please contact deborah. firstname.lastname@example.org and we will point you in the right direction.
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