Community Voices: Toby Stephenson – Lincoln vs the world

Toby Stephenson is one of The Lincolnite’s first generation Community Voices columnists. His business, TRS (trsdesign.com), is behind the new Stokes Tea & Coffee website, Lincoln’s Christmas Market guide, luxury Fairfax & Favor brand and The Great Ormond Street annual Christmas appeal, among hundreds of other local and global projects. He lives in the city with his young son and wife Leila, who works in the centre for diversity & inclusion at the University of Lincoln.


Ask a yellowbelly if they’re good at something, they‘ll be very humble – downplaying or masking their achievements with humour.

Ask a yellowbelly how they are, they’ll say “not bad, duck” – not good or great, just conservatively “not bad”.

But ask a yellowbelly what they think of Lincoln… it’s a different story. They’re a fiercely loyal and proud bunch – and so they should be (says this yellowbelly).

A new perspective

I left Lincoln aged 18, to study for an undergrad and then my MSc. I only came back briefly after university before heading off around the world for a year; visiting some very different places from ‘little old Lincoln’, many leaving me with a much greater appreciation of my hidden-away birthplace.

Mi casa es su casa

Young, without responsibility and with the confidence of travelling still in my sails, I was only back in Lincoln again briefly before I moved to Granada, Spain, taking intensive Spanish classes in the mornings and working as a web-developer in the afternoons (and partying at night).

Granada felt a bit like Lincoln – everything was walkable, the historic monument at the top of a hill (La Alhambra), a place steeped in history with lots of places to eat and drink – and the less positive similarities, lots of homeless and an unashamed view of ‘too many foreigners’ (I was one of those foreigners, gulp). Somehow a year or two abroad turned into eight…

In 2012 I flew back into East Midlands airport on a one-way ticket. On the approach to Lincoln, through the darkness I glimpsed a familiar site – the Cathedral, lit up as beautifully as ever. I was really happy to be home.

I came back to a different city to when I left for university in 1999, and I had a very different perspective from everything I’d seen in my time away. I was soon to be a dad too, and would be viewing Lincoln through the eyes of being a parent.

What other people think of Lincoln

Whether in England or abroad, what always surprised me is the number of people that either didn’t know Lincoln exists or where it is. Absolutely everyone knew Nottingham. After a while I’d say, “it’s one hour from Nottingham” – this seemed to please people.

The numbers were so small that when someone said they had been to Lincoln, I was grinning ear to ear, because without exception it was always good feedback – “they weren’t kidding when they named it Steep Hill” and “Lincolnshire sausages are definitely the best sausages in England” (they’re not wrong, either).

The Yellow ‘belly-achers’

I admit you hear “the train barriers are always down, parking is expensive, students are taking over…”, we all like a grumble, it’s cathartic, but tickle those (Yellow)bellies and they soon warm up, spilling the beans they love the city they live in. It’s just a nice place to be, isn’t it.

Putting my money where my mouth is

I genuinely love Lincoln, as a resident, as a parent, a business owner and through the eyes of a visitor. I believe it’s one of the best cities in the UK to spend a few days or to live and work.

With equal enthusiasm, I love the world of digital. I have a fantastic team at TRS who design and build incredible cloud-sites, apps, eComms, websites and so much more – so it would be criminal not to combine these passions.

At TRS we love to demonstrate our expertise and lead the way in our industry, so what better opportunity to showcase our talent than to give Lincolnshire a fantastic new resource?

We crafted www.stayinlincoln.co.uk over the summer – one vibrant, easy-to-use place for things to see and do, for events and activities, ideas on where to eat and drink, where to stay and a whole lot more. And this is just the beginning – we have huge plans for the website’s growth.

In a testament to itself, instagram followers have built-up quickly in only a few weeks, just posting pictures of how beautiful Lincoln is – it sells itself!

Advertising is free to help the small businesses that define the city – the independent and family owned businesses we all love. We want to make a positive difference to Lincoln. We’re now looking for website sponsors to help us continue to make an impact and expand.

I personally cannot wait to see how Lincoln continues to grow and become even better, it’s great to be a pro-active part of it.