Paisley School of Arts | Est. 1838 : A Living Archive Project

Paisley School of Arts | Est. 1838 : A Living Archive Project


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!

From UK City of Culture Bid Legacy to Future Paisley

From UK City of Culture Bid Legacy to Future Paisley

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.