Mr WOIE (What’s on in Epsom), is not just a journalist or an entrepreneur he is a man whose online presence is the omniscient source for all our community information. I was fortunate enough to meet with him and discuss his role.

“Local papers tell you what has happened, they don’t really promote what is coming up”, WOIE, an online community page, allows Paul, born and raised in Epsom and Ewell to be “part of the community I love”. The idea, came after Paul looked on google one bank holiday for something to do with his family, the google search included London (a 15 mile radius) and Paul wanted to find something more local.

WOIE started life as a facebook page, before adding a website with blogs, and now an Instagram page with dual updates. “For any social media it is about engagement” therefore Paul loves when the local MP sends a story as it gets people talking but he is very careful not to let his own opinions filter through. The pages’ first success came on a ‘snow day’ when he posted local schools’ early finish times. On that day WOIE grew from 600 to 1000 followers, now it has 23,600 followers on Facebook. Paul no longer is “hunting around for everything”, he is now the first place people go when they want events promoted. He loves his job and never tires of his role as even if something isn’t “his thing” he thrives on others trying to make Epsom a better place.

Paul “feels like I am giving back to the community… I go to many events with important people, I have to pinch myself to see where I am”- whether it’s meeting childhood jockey heroes or playing a part in people’s lives, like when Scarlett Lee the X Factor contestant, asked him to photograph her wedding having remembered his support after hearing her sing at 14.

Paul concludes that whilst he recognises there can be negatives with social media, you can always switch it off and that “when I’m in my eighties I won’t be lonely, I’ll be on my ipad… social media is helping families to connect”. WOIE is an example of how social media can be used to bring communities closer together Paul has expanded his WOIE pages, and now has up to 32 pages as far afield as Australia, with 10 currently doing well; Paul believes anyone wanting to run a page has to be community not business focused, and you have to understand people to make it successful. WOIE has won 2 local business awards, and was pleased when people questioned it (as didn’t realise he was a business). Paul believes WOIE is worth the 24/7 role as “the best job in the world is one you enjoy”. He loves, and wants to keep promoting this town and believes that too many people moving to Epsom don’t appreciate its long history and uniqueness of a little town but having a large community.

After speaking to Paul, I finally see the difference between being in the community and being a part of it. And WOIE is a crucial part of it, and so is this man!

By Bethan Massey, Rosebery School