THE town of Paisley is gearing up for its biggest ever ever influx of visitors over the next 10 days when a major new arts event will coincide with its hosting of the Royal National Mod for the first time.
More than 8000 people are expected to flock to the Renfrewshire town as it hosts Scotland’s flagship celebration of traditional and Gaelic culture for the first time.
More than 70 events extra events are being held in Paisley alongside the main Mod competition programme under the banner of “The Spree” festival, which was launched last year and was intended to leave a lasting legacy from the town’s hosting of the 121-year-old Mod.
Paisley, which has a population of around 75,000, is staging the Mod three years after another newcomer, Thurso, in Caithness.
Council and business leaders say Paisley will never have hosted an event as significant as the “double whammy” cultural celebration which will unfold from Friday night, when a 1000-strong torchlight procession will head down the High Street to the town hall from 7pm for the opening ceremony.
A four-day event when it ran in 2012, The Spree has been expanded to run from tonight, when the Mod’s opening ceremony will be held, until Sunday 20 October, the day after the final official events are held.
Highlights over the opening weekend include a concert by Celtic supergroup Capercaillie and a mass fiddlers’ rally in Paisley Abbey, the “Shinty Mod Cup Final”, indie favourite The Pictish Trail, and an appearance from crime writer Denise Mina.
The RSNO, Edwyn Collins, Rachel Sermanni, Admiral Fallow, Donnie Munro, RM Hubbert, The Twilight Sad and Fred MacAulay are among the other high-profile acts who are about to appear in the town, which Princess Anne is visiting on Tuesday.
Among the venues being used for the two events are Paisley Town Hall, which dates back to 1882, the 850-year-old abbey, its museum, arts centre and a temporary “Spiegeltent,” which has been set up in the County Square.
Renfrewshire council leader Mark Macmillan said: “It’s going to be a historic 10 days, not just because Paisley is hosting the Mod for the first time, but also because there’s never been anything like it in the town before.
“The Spree was specifically set up and launched in October last year because we knew the Mod was coming and there are an extra 70 events going on alongside the main programme.
“The historic venues we have in the town, like the abbey, the museum and the observatory, that are all hosting events, are pretty special and will really show off the town at its best. Paisley is going to look and sound absolutely fantastic over the next 10 days.
“People are obviously coming here to perform at the Mod from all over Scotland, but there has been a great response from the people of Paisley about the event coming here and we think the unique combination of Scotland’s oldest and newest festivals will really show the town in its true light.”
Bob Davidson, chief executive of Renfrewshire Chamber of Commerce, told The Scotsman: “There has been a big effort to get businesses on board with the event, to see how they can benefit from The Mod and The Spree, but also to make sure that they are open and welcoming to visitors.
“The fact we have to major events on at the same time is a real double whammy for the town and we’re expecting it to have a major impact in creating a positive perception of Paisley over the next couple of weeks.”
John MacLeod, president of An Comunn Gàidhealach, which organises the Mod each year, said: “The opening of Gaeldom’s biggest national festival is almost here and we are delighted that the town of Paisley is hosting this special event.
“This has been an important year for Gaelic in educational and social terms and we can now confidently face the future in the knowledge that our language and culture will continue to prosper in the care of the new generation of Gaelic speakers.”