Professional photographer Karen Strunks started wakegreenpark.blogspot.com in February 2010 to bring together the residents of the small Wake Green Park estate in Moseley, Birmingham. She has since used the website to tell stories about life on the estate, post up information and organise events that bring the community together, such as a Big Lunch on 18th July. Karen is also the creator of 4am project, a photography project that has proved popular with community websites across the UK. Karen will shortly be taking a little break from Wake Green Park for Big Apple Unpeeled, a self-funded, month-long photographic adventure in New York.
Karen is the fourth hyperlocal website manager to answer Ten Questions. Also check out Paul Bradshaw’s ‘Hyperlocal Voices’ at Online Journalism ‐ a series of interviews with leading local bloggers.
What made you start Wake Green Park?
I began the Wake Green Park blog to help bring the community of residents here together. I wanted to have a place for news, big or small, that people could visit and stay up to date. I also want it to be a place where residents can take part and contribute to the blog and have their say, share their news or raise any concerns.
What do you feel the key local issues are for your community and how have you used your website to address these?
Some of the key issues around Wake Green Park are to do with security of the estate and our homes, plus maintenance of the site as well which includes gardening. We pay a management company a monthly maintenance fee and I know the amount is of a concern to some residents. Also, from the feedback I’ve received a lot of people have welcomed the blog and think it’s a very positive move for bringing the community together.
What has been your favourite post or feature on your website and why?
My favourite post is about the Wake Green Park Big Lunch. It was a picnic I organised for residents as part of the Big Lunch campaign which aims to bring communites together. This involved me doing a post campaign around all the flats to make sure I included everyone, as not all residents are online. I had a couple of neighbours volunteer their time to help out too. There was a good turn out on the day and people were saying how they enjoyed having a chance to meet new neighbours and make new friends.
What obstacles have you faced with your website, and how have you overcome these?
Initially there were concerns raised by some of the Directors of the estate. The Board of Directors is made up of volunteers residents. Some of the issues raised were security. By putting some information online they were afraid that this would encourage criminals.
They were also concerned about the Big Lunch picnic. I think they thought it was going to be a raucous party. I took the opportunity to meet with them, introduce myself properly and tell them a bit about my background and allayed their worries. They have turned their views around and they are now very supportive of the blog.
What do you think it is that attracts readers to your website?
I think residents enjoy having their own space on the internet and are rather proud of that. I think they like to read up on the smaller matters of the park as well as the bigger issues.
What’s the most absurd thing that has happened on your site?
I am still waiting for the absurd!
[I beg to differ on this one, this post about a ceramic mole wreaking havoc on the Wake Green Park lawn seemed slightly absurd to me! - Nicky]
What changes would you like to make to your website over the next few months?
I would like to be able to update the blog with news from Moseley and what is going on in the wider area of the park. I’d also like to ask local shops if they would offer discounts to residents in return for advertising on the site. I think a forum would be a good idea too, so residents can have a chat there.
Where do you see your website in a year’s time?
I would like to have some volunteer bloggers contributing alongside me. I’d like to be able to work with the management company a bit more and with their help be able to make important announcements. Featuring pictures and stories from residents about the park would be interesting and perhaps hold some competitions such as ‘best flower box’.
What one thing would make managing your website even more rewarding than it already is?
Time! I’d love some more free time to dedicate to it to keep it right up to date with the latest news and stories. I think the blog and the residents deserve this.