How City of Cul­ture sta­tus can of­fer Pais­ley a pat­tern for suc­cess

The Herald - - OPINION - MARK MACMIL­LAN

A col­umn for out­side con­trib­u­tors. Con­tact: agenda@the­herald.co.uk

THIS week saw the UK Gov­ern­ment fire the start­ing pis­tol on a com­pe­ti­tion that will trans­form the fu­ture of one of the coun­try’s com­mu­ni­ties and Pais­ley is ready to show why that should be us.

On Thurs­day, the Depart­ment for Cul­ture, Me­dia and Sport (DCMS) of­fi­cially launched the UK City of Cul­ture 2021 com­pe­ti­tion. The an­nounce­ment was made in Hull, which is host­ing the ti­tle in 2017, and Pais­ley is one of sev­eral places in the UK aim­ing to fol­low the city.

The com­pe­ti­tion sees a year of ma­jor UK-wide events in one lo­ca­tion aimed at us­ing cul­ture and cre­ativ­ity as a cat­a­lyst for change. Bids will be lodged in the spring, and the win­ner will be an­nounced at the end of the year. To pre-empt an of­ten-asked ques­tion, al­though Pais­ley isn’t a city, the com­pe­ti­tion is open to large towns and ur­ban ar­eas. As Scot­land’s big­gest town, we are well equipped to bid and win. As a born-and-bred Bud­die, I would sug­gest there are few places of our size to have made such a con­tri­bu­tion to the world.

Pais­ley is the one-time cen­tre of the global tex­tile in­dus­try and the cra­dle of the Pais­ley Pat­tern, a world­wide brand that still car­ries the town’s name.That unique his­tory be­queathed a legacy still prom­i­nent to­day, in­clud­ing Scot­land’s sec­ond­high­est con­cen­tra­tion of listed build­ings and an in­ter­na­tion­ally sig­nif­i­cant mu­seum col­lec­tion.

There’s also a highly-re­garded univer­sity, an in­ter­na­tional air­port, a thriv­ing grass­roots con­tem­po­rary cul­tural scene, in­clud­ing PACE – one of the UK’s largest youth the­atre groups – and a busy ma­jor events pro­gramme.

At the same time, Pais­ley faces ma­jor chal­lenges. The town is home to some of the most de­prived ar­eas in Scot­lan­dandtheemp­tyu­nit­sonour High Street tell the story of a town cen­tre hit harder than most by a chang­ing re­tail en­vi­ron­ment.

But that’s why we are bid­ding. UK City of Cul­ture goes to a city that, like Hull and Derry in 2013, has a clear plan to use the ac­co­lade to change its for­tunes for the bet­ter. As the DCMS re­minded us this week, UK City of Cul­ture is more than a ti­tle: it’s about bring­ing com­mu­ni­ties to­gether, build­ing lo­cal pride, de­vel­op­ing new part­ner­ships and at­tract­ing tourists.

In a few months we will sub­mit a bid that will show the judges how we plan to use Pais­ley’s unique story and as­sets to de­liver all of the above in 2021.

The first week of Hull’s year in the spot­light saw 342,000 visi­tors, an in­cred­i­ble num­ber that out­lines the sheer scale of the pos­si­ble ben­e­fits.

For us, win­ning would mean an eco­nomic boost worth tens of mil­lions of pounds, hun­dreds of new jobs and the chance to build a new town-cen­tre econ­omy with cul­ture and tourism at its heart.

But the im­pact it would have on the peo­ple of Ren­frew­shire is just as im­por­tant. Cul­ture has the power to make peo­ple’s lives bet­ter.

Cul­ture is proven to have a pos­i­tive im­pact on health and well­be­ing and we want the bid process to cre­ate a last­ing legacy of new chances for peo­ple young and old to ac­cess those ben­e­fits.

And the peo­ple of Pais­ley are the ones lead­ing the bid: more than 8,000 have al­ready been part of the con­ver­sa­tion around it, while the show of sup­port on so­cial me­dia this week from the lo­cal com­mu­nity has been phe­nom­e­nal.

Per­cep­tions of Pais­ley are al­ready be­ing con­founded. Pub­lic­ity around the bid has al­ready led to 70 mil­lion op­por­tu­ni­ties to see or hear some­thing pos­i­tive about the town, with more to come.

The bid doesn’t sit in iso­la­tion; it’s part of a wider push to trans­form the area’s for­tunes over the next decade, in­clud­ing a re­vamped Pais­ley Mu­seum pre­dicted to at­tract 125,000 visi­tors a year.

But while we will de­liver ma­jor re­gen­er­a­tion ben­e­fits win or lose, the UK City of Cul­ture ti­tle would tur­bocharge the en­tire process.

Older Her­ald read­ers will re­mem­ber the neg­a­tive way Glasgow was per­ceived be­fore it hosted the Euro­pean City of Cul­ture ti­tle in 1990, and the trans­for­ma­tion it has seen since.

It’s time for Pais­ley to go on its own ver­sion of that jour­ney. Our bid for UK City of Cul­ture 2021 will show we need­theti­tle,want­theti­tle,and­can de­liver it. No mat­ter what hap­pens, Pais­ley has turned a cor­ner. Coun­cil­lor Macmil­lan is the leader of Ren­frew­shire Coun­cil and chair­man of the Pais­ley 2021 Part­ner­ship Board. www.pais­ley2021.co.uk

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