At the beginning of 2020, colleagues from STAR Project, Renfrewshire Council and the University of the West of Scotland organised a workshop, Paisley Art & Soul. The workshop brought together members of Renfrewshire’s local communities and other stakeholders to discuss the ways that art and culture affects individual and community prosperity and wellbeing. This co-produced research project aligns closely with the aims of Future Paisley, a wide-ranging cultural regeneration programme currently ongoing and, in which, local communities are collaborating with a broad range of partners to reshape the town’s future.

The workshop was organised as part of our UKRI supported work, Evidencing the impact of cultural regeneration on poverty: A collaborative approach funded through their Place Based Partnership stream. The funding we received allowed us to collaborate with our close associates from the Council and STAR Project and to reach out to community members to discover their views on the role that art and culture played in their lives.

Workshop participants braved torrential rain to come and share their views with us. About 50 local people made their way to the Beechwood Community Centre in Shortroods to eat lunch and discuss and map the ways in which art and culture were important to them. The variety of views expressed and the enthusiastic engagement with this project demonstrated the significance of art and culture for all community members. The workshop inspired further interrogation of the issues raised and – as COVID put a kink in our plans for additional get togethers – some online focus group discussions and creative workshops alongside some local cultural production.

In addition to a short film of Paisley Art & Soul, blogposts (have a read here, and here) and a ‘zine recording community members’ creativity, members of the project consortium produced a wide ranging review of evidence exploring the role of arts and culture in tackling poverty. The work that we have undertaken underscores the importance of art and culture for all in our communities. The insights gained will contribute to ongoing discussions and decision making, changing narratives around perceptions of ‘poverty’ and deconstructing unwarranted stigma.

Providing a wider context for understanding the ways in which arts and culture can influence individual and community experiences of prosperity and wellbeing, this evidence review is intended to inform the next stage in the development of Future Paisley, leading to new opportunities for everyone in Renfrewshire to benefit from all that culture and creativity have to offer.

We are delighted to make our evidence review available to a wider audience here today.