REPORT ON THE 2nd ANNUAL LOVE TOPSHAM PUBLIC MEETING

FEBRUARY 27TH 2020

The Love Topsham team had their second annual public meeting, also celebrating the 1st birthday of the Love Topsham Card, on Thursday 27th February in Matthews Hall, Topsham. The purpose of the get together was to take a look at what the team had achieved in the last year, where the money had come from to fund these activities and what the plans were for 2020…as well as to rustle up some more volunteer help! The wine flowed and the cakes kept coming…. 

The Love Topsham Core Team
Currently made up of the following directors: Paul Berman – Team Leader, Jo Berman – Marketing and Communications, Carolina Hobbs – Treasurer, Ned Hoste – Designer and technical expert, Lily Neal – Many Departments! (The Topsham Bookshop)

None of the directors were paid a salary in 2019. Aside from one piece of work on reformatting the Love Topsham website where one director was paid a fee as an alternative to getting external assistance, all of their work and time with Love Topsham is voluntary. Key messages from the presentation are shown below.

A LOOK BACK AT 2019

  • Over £24,000 raised from the Love Topsham Card
    The Love Topsham Card has been very successful in generating funds from donations in 2019 and has raised over / nearly £12,000 from residents and visitors to the town, £10,000 from local businesses and the balance of around £2,500 from other sources including a DCC grant of £1,500.
  • The Love Topsham Card is a measure of so many things
    Paul Berman explained that when a business or a resident sign up to the Card, it is the team’s main indicator that people want Love Topsham to continue their work promoting the town. Without the Card take up, Love Topsham cannot exist. The Card donation for residents is a minimum of £3 a month and for businesses a minimum donation of £10 a month. The Card brings funds in to Love Topsham, shows a solid commitment by the supporter to Topsham and its future and encourages people to think more about where they live and hence encourages shopping locally. (More insights from traders and residents follow further on in this document)
  • 89 Businesses now signed up as business supporters
    The team have been successful in attracting a range of Topsham-based businesses to donate, nearly 90 now in total, from shops, to professional and trade services to micro-businesses and holiday-lets and nearly 60 are now promoting an exclusive offer to Love Topsham Cardholders to encourage spending in the local economy
  • There were 12 community events enabled by the Love Topsham Card in 2019
    The Love Topsham team presented an overview of last year’s events. From resident and traders’ feedback, it was felt that all the events were very successful in either encouraging local shopping (Spring Forward, Late Night Xmas Shopping Evening) or a greater sense of community spirit in the town (Join The Club, After Work Socials, Xmas Lights Switch On, Santa Run, Traders meetings) or both. The addition of music to these events has been a major change which seems to have been very well received. The team feels strongly that it’s efforts to increase community cohesion were very worthwhile and these will be continued, in line with the stated objectives.
  • Extensive editorial generated and some paid advertising for Topsham
    The level of advertising and promotion of the town to attract visitors, primarily from across the SW region, has increased significantly with for example: advertising of events at the main train stations in Exeter and airport; Visit Topsham leaflets promoted distributed and replenished in tourist information centres, hotels and transport hubs by a professional company and wide coverage in publications such as Exeter Living and Grow magazine.
  • Strong Online Presence
    The Love Topsham website is now properly established and proving to be a solid hub of information for residents and visitors. Statistics show the ‘Exclusive Offers’ is the most popular page, and visitors are staying on the site for over 2 minutes, showing that they are finding it of interest. The Town Calendar is also being used by more and more people and is a helpful central point for finding out about Topsham events.

The town in general, plus businesses that support Love Topsham, are promoted across social media by the team. Followers are at a healthy level across all social media platforms including over 2,000 followers on Facebook. Not bad for a population in the town of around 6,000!

THE YEAR AHEAD

  • Establishing Topsham traditions – Similar schedule of events planned for 2020
    The team plans to run similar events in 2020 as in 2019, although Join the Club will not feature until 2021. New events will be the VE Day Picnic in the Park on May 8th with the Charter Day team, and the Love Topsham Supper Club, launching at The Galley on Thursday April 2nd where Love Topsham Cardholders can enjoy a 5-course meal at the very special price of £27.50. The Supper Club will continue on a monthly basis with events following in The Boathouse and Route 2 Café in May and June.
  • After Work Socials are now bi-monthly
    A hugely successful initiative and going strong. The team have learnt from talking to working residents that they have struggled to connect with the community. Without the connection with where they live, shopping and socialising habits are as a result not necessarily in Topsham. The After Work Socials have succeeded in helping to make this group more connected, try out different places in town and make friends. The Socials will continue on a bi-monthly basis, with the next event at the Lord Nelson on Monday March 30th with live music and nibbles on offer. Residents of Topsham who work in any capacity are very welcome.
  • Mid-Year Review
    The Love Topsham team will conduct a mid-year review to assess income from donations against the cost forecast to see if any other projects can be taken on, workload permitting

WHAT THE TOWN THINKS

  • Powerful words from our traders
    A fascinating element of the meeting were some video interviews with residents and shop owners/ workers talking about Love Topsham and what difference they and the launch of the Love Topsham Card have made to the town.
  • Insights into how people ‘use’ their Love Topsham Card
    There was wide support for what the team had done to inject a feeling of pride and a buzz back into the town after the banks had closed a few years ago, and also some interesting insights about how people feel about the Love Topsham Card, what it symbolises and what it has done for local shopping:

    • Many people seem to value highly the value of just having Love Topsham Card and are quite content not to use it to redeem the offers. Some feel they know the shop owners too well and are reluctant to ‘take money away from them’ by using the Card to access offers.
    • On the flipside, the traders interviewed really do want people to use the Card, to show engagement and are happy to give customers ‘something back’ for their support of the town.
    • There is a feeling that the Love Topsham card has increased engagement between shoppers and shops and a greater sense of ‘town’ ownership…’having a stake in the town’ was how one resident described it
  • Powerful words from the businesses
    Jim from Topsham Wines made some key points which were met with a round of applause from the audience. He considered that people have been drawn from faster pace lifestyles to living in beautiful Topsham, and partly because of the atmosphere created by the many local independent shops. However, he thought that people may have brought ‘city’ shopping habits with them and are still using supermarkets and online deliveries as their main way of shopping. The powerful message though was that ‘however attractive you think the local shops in town are, they are people’s livelihoods and if you don’t use them, they will go, and never come back’.
  • An Encouraging number of Card sign ups on the night
    There were comments from some attendees at the meeting (residents) who said that before the meeting they had considered that the Love Topsham Card was not relevant to them because they didn’t use the shops in town and so didn’t need a card; hence the offers wouldn’t benefit them. After hearing about the team’s work, they realised the importance of shopping locally to help sustain the town they have bought into. They also donated on the night to receive their Love Topsham Cards as they now appreciated how the funds were being spent.

VOLUNTEERING

  • A huge thank you to volunteers more needed to keep the work going

The team highlighted the help given to them by over 100 volunteers across the course of the year in many capacities. There was also a strong request for more volunteers for any length of time, and a special request for help in the marketing arena where the ongoing workload is the greatest. Please do ask your friends and family if they can help, alongside considering whether you yourself can help at all

PROPERLY ESTABLISHING THE GROUP

  • Love Topsham is now a Community Interest Company
    This means that as well as being overseen by a Community Interest Company regulator, Love Topsham’s accounts will be filed with Companies House and available for anyone to view. It also means that any surplus funds available in the event that the group is wound up will be distributed to charities in the local community rather than being available to the directors.
  • Management Accounts
    The Team presented their 2019 Management Accounts. In summary, funds of £16,919 were raised in 2018 which increased to £24,179 in 2019. In 2019 there was a surplus of £7,080 after costs of £17,098 were accounted for, £4,000 of which is being held as a provision against a possible tax charge on the funds transferred into the new company from its previous structure as an Unincorporated Community Association. (Sight of the full accounts are available, please email the team)

We hope that you have found these notes from our Public Meeting of interest. To keep up to date, please do find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also sign up to our newsletters via the website at the bottom of the home page.

For further information on any aspects of Love Topsham’s work including signing up to a Card or becoming a volunteer, please visit our website at https://lovetopsham.co.uk/, contact the team at lovetopsham@gmail.com or Paul on 07768 237078. Or visit Lily Neal in The Topsham Bookshop.