Leonie Bell: Culture is transforming Paisley into a thriving 21st Century town

Wednesday 26th December, 2018

Culture has the power to transform towns, lives and communities, defining who we are, opening up new opportunities and shaping our civic centres, neighbourhoods and communities.

It is such a powerful force and it is driving our plans for the transformation of Paisley and its town centre.

From its buildings to its music, its creative, radical and entrepreneurial spirit, its industrial heritage and its people, Paisley is unlike any other town in Scotland. Walking through the town centre the quality of Paisley’s culture, architecture and heritage is there for all to see. That’s exactly what we want, for people to see Paisley for what it is, and for what it can be; a thriving and connected town with culture at its heart.

We are investing £100million in Paisley’s cultural venues in a bold programme that will reimagine the High Street and turn the town centre into a place where residents and visitors are drawn to explore, gather and shop, creating jobs and benefiting the whole of Renfrewshire.

The programme will invest £42million transforming Paisley Museum into a world-class museum that will showcase Paisley’s unique heritage, collections and iconic Paisley Pattern to the world. It is expected to attract around 125,000 visitors a year.

Paisley Town Hall will become a flagship performance venue after its £22million investment, bringing approximately 100,000 visitors to the town each year, and Paisley Library will move into a new cultural and learning hub on the High Street, creating a town centre that offers places and spaces to be curious, to connect and to participate in and enjoy culture in a range of ways.

These are bold plans, especially when high streets up and down the country are facing such challenging times, but we believe that Paisley’s time is now.

This investment will transform the town not only culturally but socially, economically and physically.

There are challenges, culture alone cannot bring about social change and transformation, but by working with partners, communities and artists and creative and cultural organisations we can make changes that will benefit everyone in Renfrewshire.

I have worked in culture for over 20 years in a range of roles from Programme Director of The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Architecture, Design & the City to leading Scotland’s cultural programme for London 2012 and Glasgow 2014 and more recently as the lead on the Scottish Government’s Culture Strategy and Director of Arts at Creative Scotland. Paisley has such great ambitions and ideas and I hope I can use my experience to support Paisley’s ongoing transformation.

The 2021 UK City of Culture bid was inspiring and impressive in its ambition, its commitment and the way it was community driven. It captured peoples’ imaginations and gave them a sense of the possible back. It also showed that culture is for everyone and is in everything we do. The visual arts, architecture and design, craft, theatre, dance, music, books, cinema, festivals, fun fairs and pantomimes, all of this is part of Paisley’s culture, it’s what has shaped the town and its people.

People are looking at what Paisley is doing and we have an opportunity for the town to be a lead the way in culture led regeneration. Paisley’s story goes beyond the bid. We want to build on the possibilities it set out, transforming Paisley into a thriving 21st century town.

The area punches above its weight in providing leading artists and cultural icons.

Anthony Jenkins
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