I was lucky enough to join Renfrewshire Council in autumn 2018 as part of a new Cultural Regeneration team established to build on the legacy of Paisley’s UK City of Culture bid. Our small team is responsible for developing an overarching, collaborative and unifying approach to cultural regeneration and renewal for Paisley and Renfrewshire more broadly.
For me, one of the exciting things about starting this new role was that Paisley hadn’t won the UK City of Culture 2021 competition, but had kick started a cultural regeneration process that could be developed on the town’s own terms. We don’t have to restrict our approach to one based on hosting a large-scale event and have the opportunity to focus on longer-term, sustainable transformation and change.
When I joined the team, so much had already been achieved by the bid. The foundation of Paisley’s bid was the town’s rich heritage, its radical and entrepreneurial spirit, its long history of creativity, innovation, making and industry. The bid journey built confidence in the town and envisioned new possibilities for Paisley’s future. It created a galvanising momentum for change across communities, which we can now build on as ‘UK City of Culture Bid Legacy’ becomes ‘Future Paisley’.
Future Paisley is based on a collaborative approach to cultural regeneration where culture can support as well as lead change. As we all know, culture is part of all our lives but is notoriously difficult to define. It can mean the arts (dance, music, literature, theatre and the visual arts), architecture, craft, design, museums, libraries, film and TV… and it can also mean everything that makes a place what it is: how people live in the present and understand their history, heritage and future. These broad ideas of culture shape Paisley’s approach to cultural regeneration.
In taking a broad view of culture, our approach promotes cultural change as a means of effecting economic and social change in Paisley, when it is integrated as part of a multi-disciplinary approach involving different views, areas of expertise and perspectives. It is a process in which culture can both lead and take a supporting role in other developments that could be led by health and social care, education or economic development.
Crucial to this is partnership. The Future Paisley Partnership Board, now comprising 22 local and national organisations, drove the bid and is committed to working together for Paisley’s future. The partnership is overseeing investment in culture to improve young people’s mental health and wellbeing, contribute to inclusive economic growth that benefits all our communities, and close the educational attainment gap, to name a few.
There are some very visible physical changes underway in the town, with the development of some fantastic new cultural venues. But cultural regeneration in Paisley is about much more than buildings and events. It is envisaged that by working in an integrated, collaborative way towards our shared priorities, Paisley’s cultural regeneration will have the maximum impact for all our communities in the future.