City of Culture title challenge ‘is changing Paisley’

Paisley 2021 bid director Jean Cameron (centre) and her team. Picture:  Stuart Wallace

Paisley 2021 bid director Jean Cameron (centre) and her team. Picture: Stuart Wallace

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Winning the UK City of Culture crown will “turbo-charge” efforts to tackle Paisley’s long-standing problems of social deprivation and transform its troubled image, its bid leaders have claimed.

A year on from the bid being launched by Renfrewshire Council, its backers say it has already generated a new pride and is overturning old perceptions of the town.

They believe that winning the title for 2021 will have the same effect on Paisley as Glasgow’s reign as European City of Culture in 1990.

But they are planning to create a permanent legacy well before then by instigating and encouraging new arts events and activities, including the creation of a £500,000 culture fund.

Renfrewshire council leader Mark Macmillan said he believed that “harnessing the power of culture” was the key to transforming the lives of the people of Paisley, which includes Scotland’s most deprived neighbourhood.

More than 800 new jobs are predicted to be created in Paisley over the next five years thanks to the rebirth of neglected historic buildings, an extension for its museum and the hosting of events like the British Bagpipe Championships and the Royal National Mod.

Major venues for hosting cultural events, including the 850-year-old Paisley Abbey and the town hall, are already deployed for the annual Spree Festival, which has been running since 2012.

Paisley hopes to emulate Derry/Londonderry, which saw a 50 per cent increase in visitors when it was the UK’s first City of Culture in 2013.

It is, however, facing competition north of the border from Perth, as well as Coventry, Hereford, Sunderland and Stoke-on-Trent.

Jean Cameron, director of Paisley’s 2021 bid, said: “At the last count, we had something like 80 per cent of locals knowing about the bid and people think it is a really good thing to be doing. You have a real sense on the streets that the town feels different now. The arts may still be a four-letter word here, but people seem to have a sense of their culture now and are ready to embrace it.”

Macmillan said: “The benefits of bidding for UK City of Culture will be widespread – as we have already seen with previous winners Derry and Hull.

“We know Paisley has its challenges – but the bid aims to use the town’s outstanding heritage and cultural assets to transform our future and create lasting economic, social and cultural change for Renfrewshire.

“A successful bid will attract visitors, generate footfall for our town centre and create jobs. Even at this early stage, we’re tackling negative perceptions of the area and can see a new sense of pride emerging,” said Macmillan.

“More than that, we want to harness the power of culture to create a lasting legacy for everyone in Renfrewshire. We already have an innovative programme in place to tackle poverty, and making sure everyone can easily access and experience cultural activity will be a key outcome of that.

“But the bid itself is only one strand of a much bigger effort to regenerate Renfrewshire over the next decade. That includes projects such as the plans to turn Paisley Museum into an international-class destination based around our unique textile heritage.”

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