Could a title of City of Culture transform the town?
In an area steeped in culture but which has seen decades of economic instability, the crown of City of Culture 2021 might just be placed. Paisley will shortly be bidding for a place on the shortlist to win the title of City of Culture 2021. Like many of the other contenders, Paisley is struggling back from years of deprivation following the departure of large industries. However, the town is rich in history and the bid is seen as an opportunity to change the pattern of decline and transform the lives of those living in the region.
As a big town in the shadow of a big city, Paisley enjoys great transport links. Once a place of global consequence, exporting the Paisley pattern shawl all over the world, the town centre was shaped by wealthy benefactors. Boasting a neoclassical town hall and a handsome museum, the town also has a twelfth century Abbey and the highest concentration of listed buildings in Scotland after Edinburgh. The town was given identity and a thriving economy by the thread mills when these closed, however, the town slid into decades of decline.
The bid team see this opportunity as a chance to capitalise on their town’s impressive heritage, boost art and cultural activity, encourage tourism and change the perception of both outsiders and locals. They aim to allow residents to feel proud of their town and create a lasting legacy for their children to inherit.
Despite recent instabilities, Paisley has a thriving contemporary art, music and performance scene. The council has earmarked tens of millions of pounds for upgrading the town’s museum, refurbishing its Russell Institute and a fund to support cultural heritage and events. Demand for this cultural events fund was so heavily oversubscribed that the money available was doubled to £1 million. This money is being spent regardless of whether the bid is successful.
Preparing the bid is already proving a success – the town is coming together and the community is starting to get behind the bid. With backing from over 100 businesses, including Glasgow Airport, the bidding process is raising aspirations and will have a massive impact on people’s confidence and so health and wellbeing. A successful bid would prove a national platform to showcase Paisley’s rich cultural heritage, boost regeneration and create a legacy of enduring civic pride.