By Sophie Sadler
As the Tomorrow Team celebrates the 100th edition, we unveil the true story behind its glossy covers.
With a long list of characters, plot twists and cliffhangers, it is the Western Algarve’s very own soap opera. Still, there is no doubt the key to its high ratings is its leading man, Tom Henshaw.
It may surprise many to learn that media mogul, Tom, began his career in furniture in Stoke on Trent. His company, Henshaws, dealt in retail, manufacturing and removals and was where the ZIT chair was conceived. This dazzling new concept involved picking the elements of a chair off a wrack including the frame, material and colour. It was launched to the market with a glitzy party at the Ritz Hotel, hosted by renowned TV presenter and newsreader, Jan Leaming.
Why you may wonder have you never heard of it? “It was a disaster, we sold nothing,” explains Tom. Unperturbed Tom went on to import polished wood furniture from Taiwan, which he discovered wasn’t kiln dried and so in the damp English climate absorbed water. This sadly resulted in the closure of the Henshaws furniture empire.
Like every hero, Tom faced adversity with a smile and as the saying says, you can’t keep a good man down. After a spell working for Courts Furniture, he was posted overseas to Bali and then Fiji. He had to return to the UK after a coup in Fiji. Still, the expat lifestyle rubbed off on Tom and together with his now ex-wife, Margaret, they decided they wanted to live abroad.
As fate would have it, Margaret’s daughter was living in Lagos with a boyfriend, and so they decided to move to the Algarve and bought a house in Bensafrim. After a period as a labourer, he lost a lot of weight, but decided he needed a different challenge and applied for the Sales Manager position at the Algarve Resident.
This began his career in the Algarve media world, and he has never looked back. When Sheena Rawcliffe returned to the Resident after a spell working at AFPOP, Tom’s position became redundant. He worked for a short time on the Portugal News and then moved onto work on the Apolonia catalogue.
During this time, Tom had accumulated a large fan base in the area. Known and loved by many, he was very successful in his roles but had become dissatisfied with working for others. He had seen that many in the Algarve needed help and so he had the idea of starting a charity called Helping Hands as a way of supporting those in need.
It was thanks to his son, Chad, that the magazine we now know and love came about. “Chad said to me why didn’t I start a magazine to promote the charity? He suggested the name Tomorrow to highlight the concept of building a better tomorrow, it was always about helping the community”.
The first edition was in November 2011 and was called a newsletter and looks very different from the version we have today. Jane Crossman, was originally Tom’s partner in the publication and the opening article says; “Our aim is to offer a free monthly newsletter focused on the expat community. We also wished to facilitate low-cost trips, walks, shopping, coffee mornings, lunches and reasonably priced dinner specials, activities, hobbies and events.”
Jane tells me, “I felt most privileged to be asked by Tom to assist in the start-up of Tomorrow. Tom had a vision in those early days, and my goodness hasn’t it come to fruition. Through sheer hard work and a belief that the Western Algarve was much in need of exactly what Tomorrow has to offer.”
What is a testament to Tom is that many of his first advertisers are still promoting their businesses with him, including Quinta da Boavista Golf and Spa and Ann de Jongh at Fit2LoveLife. Lars Ramquist at The Lagos Vet Clinic wrote his first Pet’s Mate column in Edition one.
The soap opera however almost got discontinued after the pilot. The original designer was from Germany, and she did all her printing there. The magazine got held up and didn’t arrive in the Algarve until the 21st of the month. As it was February, this was after all the Valentine events they were promoting. He had to give all his clients a free advert in March, and it could have been the Eldorado of the soaps, had the next leading man, not stepped in.
As with many Australian soaps, a lot of the action plays out in a coffee shop. The next chapter of the story began in Oasis café in the marina, where Tom bumped into Phil Harding. “My background was in print media in the UK, when I first moved to Lagos, I worked for Vigia, and so knew Tom. I had followed the progress of Tomorrow and after starting my own design business was itching to be involved. I finally persuaded Tom to let me come on board while having lunch in Oasis.” C
reation Media then started the design, printing moved to Spain and the rest is a rating success story. “Phil was instrumental in the success not just for his aptitude at print design but because he created adverts free of charge for my clients. This has always stood us apart, and he works with businesses to put them across in the best way,” says Tom.
All soap operas revolve around faaaaaamily! Tom puts a lot of the success of the magazine down to having his daughter, Amber Henshaw, come on board as editor. She trained as a journalist in the UK with the Star and then the Express before moving to the BBC. Originally she worked for Pebble Mill before becoming their political correspondent in Scotland, then Ethiopia and Sudan. After a stint at UNICEF, she decided her Dad needed some help and Amber’s input was invaluable. She cracked the whip and started getting the editorial content to a high standard.
Helping her was another hard-hitting woman, Lena Strang, a third dan black belt, she was a member of the British National Team and won the World Masters Judo Championships five times.
Originally from Finland, she joined the cast after bumping into Tom at a party. “Tom and I met and I casually told him I’d interviewed a 90-year-old Portuguese man in Burgau, about his life and written a short piece. I wanted to do some writing and perhaps publish a novel, having retired from my work as an English teacher in the UK. He asked me to submit the piece to the magazine, and that was it! My first article appeared in March 2012. I never wrote the novel, instead, I wrote countless feature articles for the magazine, ending up publishing two books (also translated into Portuguese) based on the articles. It must have been fate meeting Tom that day eight years ago.”
It was decided that the cast now needed a bit of style and glamour and so Steven Sutton was brought in to give the magazine a touch of class.
He had a background in the luxury retail market having worked in Harrods. He originally contacted Tom as the person to go to if you needed info in Lagos. He chatted to Tom about starting up a business for deep-cleaning villas. Tom laughs as he recalls that originally he put his contact in his phone under “The Unlikely Lad”.
It was Steven who came up with the idea of the charity ball, and Tom confessed that with the first masquerade event they let him exercise his creative freedom a bit too freely. “We arrived, and the tables looked amazing with huge flower displays in the centre. We were all impressed until we sat down and realised they were taller than any of us so no one could talk to each other. We had ballerinas, singers, a band and an orchestra, so we did scale it back a bit at the next event”.
Steven has been the driving force behind establishing the registered Tomorrow charity TACT. His tenacity solution-orientated attitude has made a success of Tom’s original vision. This, says Tom, has been his greatest achievement. “I always wanted to be superman when I was a kid. He was always there to help when people needed him! Now when I see TACT giving a car to the children’s home or the Sensory Room we have just helped to fund, then I feel in some small way I have achieved my childhood dream, thankfully not the red pants though”.
TACT has been the culmination of Tom’s original dream of helping the community. Over the years there have been many schemes such as the Business Network, Dementia and Cancer Support networks, The Supper Club, At a Loose End and the infamous Lagos Lights initiative. Some have fallen by the wayside but undoubtedly they all were a step on the ladder towards Tom’s crowning glory, the charity that gives a voice to the underprivileged in the community.
The outstanding generosity of the community is now being matched by a private individual and the Luz Foundation who are contributing to TACT´s charity funds to ensure targets are met to improve people’s lives. Louise and Tony Gallagher run the Ray Of Light trust and generously worked with TACT and personally donated much of the money to refurb CASLAS.
Every star needs a leading Lady and Tom has his glamorous partner Julie, helping him with accounts and as she says, “propping him up and keeping him alive!” He tells me that he will die selling adverts and still gets such a thrill out of seeing the magazine printed each month.
There have been cliffhangers along the way, like Helen Daniel who had a car accident while delivering the magazines and broke her neck, which left everyone shocked. We are glad to say she has just returned to work this month, and has not been put off but is once more delivering her lines to the public with great dedication.
It is always good publicity for a Soap, when one of its stars has musical talent and releases a single. Enter Elizabeth Roberts. She met Tom and one of his networking events in 2013 before she moved to the area. She had a background in music and drama and was also a music teacher. Tom immediately spotted an opportunity and told her that he thought she should set up a local choir. An advert was placed in the magazine and in the first week they received 12 eager vocalists and in the second it grew to 24.
Now from the dizzying heights of 75 members, Liz observes, “From what Tom envisaged it has surpassed all expectations. From a community perspective, it hits the spot. We have been though losses and personal tragedies but it is difficult to feel lonely or sad when you are singing. There are also health benefits associated with filling your lungs and being active”.
There are two Awards for best-supporting actresses. Firstly Layinka, who gives Tom invaluable support with the accounts, manages the events page and proofreads the magazine. Second is to Rebeca Silva, Phil’s right-hand woman, whose creativity can be seen in the layouts of the pages.
Dramatic plot twists involving extras have provided suspense. Tom and Julie were having coffee with friends one Saturday when they got a call that the magazines were in Algoz and would not be delivered until the following week. All of their friends piled into their cars and drove to Algoz, they filled their cars from floor to ceiling with boxes, to make the next instalment hit the airwaves on time.
So as we play the theme tune and the credits roll on the 100th episode, we can only reflect on our gratitude. Such a large audience enjoys a project that we all feel so passionate about and love producing. Thank you to everyone who supports the magazine either by advertising or reading it, and we look forward to filming the next 100 episodes.
The evolution of Tomorrow
This article was originally posted in the March2020 edition.