The Grand Conversaziones series – part of the currently ongoing Paisley Exhibition – kicked off on the second Friday in February with a frank and fascinating exploration of Paisley’s Present. The event provided a timely reminder of the town’s assets – chief among them the internationally recognised Paisley Pattern – alongside an opportunity to reflect upon the path that Paisley is navigating out of the pandemic.

While the impositions forced upon us by the necessity for COVID19 lockdowns have been many, the enforced break from the norm has nevertheless caused many to reflect on what constitutes success and where we should seek to invest our effort when seeking to create vibrant, liveable and sustainable communities.

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance’s Dr Katherine Trebeck gave a compelling insight into potential routes out of the moment of pause that the pandemic has given rise to. The opportunity to step-back and take stock has meant the people’s appetite for change has increased. While, pre-pandemic, the evidence that the system hasn’t been working for a great many citizens was in full view (for example, globally 50% of people polled didn’t feel like they would be better off in 5 years’ time and 50% felt that capitalism caused more harm than good), this has come into sharper focus over recent time. Equality and sustainability with a local focus on health, wellbeing and a progressive future have moved to the top of the agenda for many. In order to move forward, a boldness of approach is needed. One that prioritises equality, respect, empowerment, ownership and trust. Katherine suggested that this might usefully be considered as ‘jigsaw-ing from the corners’ with

  • purpose (faster GDP growth should not be an objective in and of itself),
  • prevention (taking time to look upstream; proactive not reactive response),
  • pre-distribution (how can the economy do the heavy lifting to generate more equal outcomes from the outset) and,
  • people-powered (ensuring people are at the forefront of economic decision making, i.e. participatory budget making)

forming those corners and underpinning the jigsaw’s completion.

The conversation’s other speakers – Gillian Steel, Creative Director of ReMode; Alan Anthony, Managing Director 360 Architects & George Hunter, Renfrewshire Council’s Chief Officer for Regeneration and Economic Development – gave the audience insights into the ways in which their work contributed to progress towards these aims.

At ReMode, discarded clothes are exchanged for tokens that can be spent on ReMode’s handpicked range. Their work aims to increase awareness of the link between the textile industry and the climate crisis; focussing on the hyperlocal to provide viable alternatives to big manufacturing brands to move towards far greater sustainability in textiles and clothing. Moreover, diversity brings a great deal to this process as new communities bring experiences of sharing and mending from their cultures back into the local discourse.

Alan Anthony discussed the links between a healthy town centre and a healthy community, sharing plans for building towards a 20-minute neighbourhood which acknowledges the need for successful development to hold people at its centre.

George Hunter reflected on the place shaping agendas and the desire to ‘bring people with us’ that is at the forefront of Renfrewshire’s approach to the ongoing regeneration work. Noting also that while growth has long been the dominant narrative, it has often bypassed towns. Now, a more holistic approach is needed; one that prioritises active travel, independent retail and increased town centre living.

With the Q&A that followed, the event made for a great start to the Conversaziones series, parts II and III – exploring Paisley Past and Paisley Future – will place on Friday 25th February and Friday 11th  March.

Find out more and sign up to attend here: