Could Paisley become the 2021 UK City of Culture?

Paisley Abbey, one of the many historic buildings in the Renfrewshire town. Picture: Allan Milligan
Paisley Abbey, one of the many historic buildings in the Renfrewshire town. Picture: Allan Milligan
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IT IS the largest town in Scotland and was once home to a thriving textile industry renowned across the world.

Paisley no longer produces the patterns and shawls it was once famed for but there are now ambitious plans to promote its unique cultural heritage.

Paisley is bidding to become the UK City of Culture in 2021. Picture: Robert Perry

Paisley is bidding to become the UK City of Culture in 2021. Picture: Robert Perry

The Renfrewshire town is bidding to become the 2021 UK City of Culture, a title granted every four years by the Westminster Government and first awarded to Derry-Londonderry in 2013.

The bid will be officially launched on November 14 as part of the annual Christmas lights switch-on ceremony.

Civic leaders hope winning the title would encourage more visitors to a town that boasts an impressive range of historic buildings, including the 12th century Paisley Abbey, and a lively performing arts scene.

Like other similar-sized towns, Paisley’s once bustling High Street has declined in recent years and the City of Culture bid forms part of a wider regeneration project which includes the refurbishment of Paisley Museum to become a national museum of textile and costume, and the creation of a fashion and design centre.

Winning the title would put the town on the map as an international destination, change perceptions of Paisley and build local pride

Mark Macmillan, Renfrewshire Council leader

Renfrewshire Council leader Mark Macmillan said it would take the town’s “internationally significant” collection of heritage and cultural assets and use them to retell its unique story.

“As well as the globally-recognised Paisley Pattern, we also have one of Scotland’s finest collections of listed buildings,” he said.

“Throw in our location and transport links and thriving contemporary cultural scene, as well as the achievements of individuals like Gerry Rafferty, John Byrne, Paolo Nutini and David Tennant, and we have the ingredients of a winning bid.

“Of course we can’t and won’t hide from the fact Paisley has challenges - but bidding for UK City of Culture is a powerful means to help change that.

“Previous winners have been places with a clear plan to use UK City of Culture status and the attention it brings to tackle economic and social issues.

“Winning the title would put the town on the map as an international destination, change perceptions of Paisley, build local pride, re-energise our town centre and High Street, and bring people together.

“Renfrewshire Council already has ambitious long-term regeneration plans for the area based around culture and heritage, and aims to deliver on those whether we win or not – but City of Culture status would turbocharge that process.

“But ultimately this bid is for the people of Paisley - and I would encourage them to come along to our public launch on Saturday, November 14 and show their support.”

Paisley was once a leading shopping destination for many in Renfrewshire and Inverclyde but its High Street has struggled in the face of competition from out-of-town retail parks and nearby Glasgow.

A 2015 retail report by Colliers International found that Paisley showed an average reduction in rental levels of 54 per cent between 2008 and 2015, compared to the Scottish average of 23 per cent.

The UK City of Culture title would likely increase visitor numbers to the town. Derry reported a seven per cent year-on-year rise in hotel bookings between 2012 and 2014 and an increase in tourists visiting from North America and continental Europe.

Kingston-upon-Hull will become the next UK City of Culture in 2017.

A shortlist for the 2021 title will be revealed in summer 2017 with a final decision announced by the end of the year.