Bid director Jean: We have so much to celebrate
When Paisley submitted its bid for UK City of Culture 2021, few could realise just how momentous the journey was going to be, writes bid director Jean Cameron.
Since the dawn of the two-year campaign, 34,000 people — equivalent to more than half the town’s population — took part in the conversation around the bid.
The town has played host to major events including the British Pipe Band Championships, Scottish Album of the Year Awards and Paisley Halloween Festival, as well as the first ever Weave arts festival as part of the town’s Sma’ Shot celebrations.
Paisley star Paolo Nutini played a triumphant homecoming concert at the Abbey as part of the annual Spree festival, while, in April, footage of a mass outdoor rendition of Gerry Rafferty’s iconic hit Baker Street went viral and brought the town centre to a standstill.
Worldwide, the campaign reached more than 270 million people, with the latest visitor numbers in people coming to Paisley’s events also showing a massive 25 per cent hike on the previous year.
But at the very heart of the bid was the premise that culture can transform lives.
The £1million Renfrewshire Culture, Heritage and Events Fund was set up and has financed collaborations like those between Sir Matthew Bourne’s Re:Bourne dance company and local group Right2Dance and teenage animator Morgan Spence’s stopmotion Lego video, now seen by millions of people.
The fund also gifted the local community the opportunity to create culture on their own term, as well as providing a lasting legacy of the process.
Political parties united in their support of Paisley, with the bid endorsed by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Secretary David Mundell, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale.
More than 200 local businesses also got behind the town’s title ambitions, including Glasgow International Airport and Scotland’s largest entertainment complex intu Braehead.
Global drinks giants Diageo branded a limited edition run of Paisley 2021 branded Johnnie Walker bottles, while the Gordon Leslie Group emblazoned trailers with the bid logo, which travelled the length and breadth of the country.
Paisley’s bid was part of a wider plan to transform the town’s future using its internationally-significant heritage and cultural story.
As well as boosting the town’s reputation and world profile, it created a new awareness of why the town matters to Scotland, the UK, and the world.
The momentum created is still gathering pace and the town, which was once at the centre of the world’s thread industry, will now use that same legacy to transform its future.
The iconic is Paisley Pattern at the forefront of the plans to reinvent the town’s textile heritage for the 21st century to bring more visitors here.
It was featured in luxury knitwear brand Pringle’s 2017 Autumn Winter collection.
A new destination brand will launch in 2018 to make the town a key draw on the tourist map.
Work to revitalise the town centre and economy is already underway, with a £113m investment in the town centre and venues, including a £22m revamp of Paisley Town Hall and a £42m revamp of Paisley Museum.
The Secret Collection, the UK’s first ever publicly accessible museum store on a High Street, is set to breathe new life into the town centre.
It will reveal tens of thousands of objects from Paisley museum collections on display for the first time in a generation in the new £3.7m facility beneath the town centre.
Over the next decade there will also be £276m of major infrastructure projects taking place in Renfrewshire as part of the Glasgow Region City Deal.
The competition may be over, but the journey continues for Paisley and the community who so passionately backed the bid.
We are, of course, heartbroken not to win the title as we know how much the people of the town poured into this — but, at the same time, those hearts are bursting with pride at what Paisley achieved in the past two years.
Our warmest congratulations go to Coventry — they pulled together a really impressive body of support from their partners and we wish them all the best for 2021.
We are proud to be the only town to ever make the shortlist and by some distance the smallest place to ever get this far in the competition.
Few places of Paisley’s size can claim to have given the world so much over the years, and the town punched above its weight once again.
The next chapter in our story is only just beginning.
Highlight Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street was performed en masse in the town
Homecoming Paolo Nutini performed at Paisley Abbey