Earlier in the year, CCSE staff got together with colleagues from STAR Project to deliver a workshop alongside STAR community members. The workshop was an opportunity to discuss community experiences of culture in and around Paisley and Renfrewshire. The workshop was part of our UKRI project, funded as part of their ‘Enchacing Place Based Parterships’ stream.
The collaborative work undertaken has been both interesting and rewarding. After the workshop, STAR community members co-wrote a lovely blog which we published here. We were also able to comission a short film on the day of the event which we’re delighted to be able to share here.
After our own recent experience of hosting a virtual conference, CCSE Director – Prof Gayle McPherson – spoke this week at the 7th biennial International Symposium on Cross -Sector Social Interactions. As the restrictions on co-presence and travel remain in place for many, the event took place virtually.
Alongside conference chair Dr Annmarie Ryan, Prof McPherson spoke, presenting on the ‘Legacies of failure to win the City of Culture: Identity, civicism and change,’ drawing on her participation in developing and delivering Paisley’s own City of Culture UK bid. Although, ultimately, Paisley was not selected as city of culture, the bidding process and its legacies have positive ongoing effects for Paisley and the development of cultural strategies, collaborations and interactions across a spectrum of civic agencies and actors.
Instagram Live, Zoom quiz nights, podcasts, at home workouts. In the last few months these forms of connections have skyrocketed into the public consciousness with everyone and their granny (literality) logging on to connect with the world. It makes sense, now more than ever we all are desperate to grasp onto as much human connection as we can.
Prior to lockdown Future Paisley was building some great momentum with the Green Tease Event, the success of the Book Festival and lots of other exciting projects in the horizon. However along with the rest of the world a lot of this had to be put on hold. The idea of creating a podcast came to us when the sadness and reality of all this really hit, it shone a little light of hope during a dark time.
Fast forward a few weeks, we have a schedule, we have a production team (Erskine Arts) and we have our first two guest ready to record in their home-made recording booths.
The conversation between our first guests Sharon McAuley from the Star Project and Alan McNiven from Engage Renfrewshire, was funny, insightful and honest. They spoke of how people and communities are coping and doing what they can to make all this a little bit more manageable.
These podcasts hope to give a voice to the people who aren’t being heard right now, and we want them to be real and reassuring. Being honest about how we are feeling and, how we are attempting to cope right now, is possibly one of the most positive and productive things that everyone can do for themselves and others at this moment. It’s really important to be reminded that everyone is going through the same thing you are. As Alan mentioned in the recording, people just have to be a bit more explicit about how we are feeling at this moment in time because we all need that spark of connection in our lives.
As well as providing an important form of local connection, each episode will also be used as time capsule, to capture some of the uniquness of this current experience. Something that we can use to show the ways in which culture “coped,” demonstrated its resilience during this uncertain time as well as helping us to marshal ours!
If you would like to have a listen, you can find it on Spotify and SoundCloud, we have a more exciting episodes to come!
In 1808, a group of local community figures came together to establish the Paisley Philosophical Institution. This collective vision recognized that there was a growing desire in Paisley, and the wider area, to support and provide cultural and educational development to the town’s inhabitants. The group were particularly conscious of a rich historical legacy, alongside burgeoning and emerging talent, within the community. In response to this, they drew up a set of guiding principles, including a determination to “realise the potential contribution that creativity can make to education, social inclusion and quality of life”.
Playing a significant role in the cultural and creative development of Paisley, and beyond, the membership of Paisley Philosophical Institution supported proactive discussion and the establishment of key cultural resources within the community. The Public Library, Museum and Observatory, now Local Authority responsibilities, are still in use to this day.
Paisley School of Art
An important, yet often forgotten part of this story is the foundation of Paisley School of Arts, established by the Paisley Philosophical Institution in 1838. As an interesting aside, this predates the formation of Glasgow School of Art by a number of years. The development of Paisley School of Arts evolved over the years. From its origins as Paisley School of Arts; a Government School of Art and Design at 14 Gilmore Street, it then grew in size to form the School of Arts and Science. This led to amalgamation with local technical education provision to form the Paisley Technical College and School of Art on Gordon Street and has now developed as part of the multi-campus educational presence of the University of the West of Scotland.
Celebrating a legacy and lineage of creative education
Last year saw the redevelopment and launch of the BA(Hons) New Media Art programme at UWS. At the heart of this programme, students discover and develop their own artistic practices through exploration of diverse platforms from illustration, moving image, animation, multimedia live performance/installation, projection mapping, sound art, creative coding and immersive media (360 Filming/AR/VR). Through learning and exploring historical, contemporary, cultural and social contexts of New Media Art, students become ‘Technical’, ‘Critical’ and ‘Creative’ practitioners. With the ongoing emergence of new and innovative arts training at the University, Paisley can claim to have a long and significant presence in the provision of creative education in Scotland. Here, the University of the West of Scotland forms part of this fascinating timeline.
Paisley School of Arts | Est. 1838 : A Living Archive Project
Mr Trent Kim (Proramme Leader) and Dr Rachael Flynn (Lecturer), staff from the BA(Hons) New Media Art programme, along with Ms Anne Gifford (Head of Arts & Media), were recently awarded funding from Renfrewshire Council, through the Culture, Heritage and Events Fund, in order to explore this creative history.
Recognizing the significance of Paisley School of Art, as an important and pioneering presence within the community, the project will focus on this educational and cultural institution, where there is evidence of a longstanding and a continuing flow and flourish of local creativity, with global impact. Whilst national focus and spotlight have been placed elsewhere, this project seeks to reassert the significance of this long-established creative community, which continues to innovate. As we move towards a new chapter in the creative and cultural history of Paisley, with the current £100 million investment of Paisley Town centre, this project will contribute to the reimagined vision of Paisley.
Their project will involve archival research, a series of public workshops, and a culminating Summer School for local school aged children located at the historic site of the Art School on Gordon Street. This work will build to form a Living Archive, across various historic and contemporary sites of interest, recognizing, reasserting, and reimagining the vision and determination of these local figures and a community who believed in the potential for their cultural wealth to create CULTURAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL change.
You can follow the progress of this project via their Social Media channels which are launching this month! https://www.instagram.com/psoa1838/
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.