My Paisley with… Lil Brookes of Gatekeeper Art

Monday 11th June, 2018

Artist and heritage consultant Lil Brookes is the creative mind behind small business Gatekeeper Art and takes inspiration from Paisley and Renfrewshire’s rich history in her work.

Her artwork specialises in the Paisley pattern design, which she used as inspiration as she created one of the 25 special bid cover designs for Paisley’s bid for UK City of Culture 2021.

Find out more about her work designing and delivering heritage projects, workshops and events in the community, as well as her stunning paintings, prints, cards and original artworks influenced by the local area.


Tell us about yourself and what you do

Hi my name is Lil Brookes and I already know how wonderful Paisley and Renfrewshire is as I was born and brought up here!  I decided to follow the dream and begin a second career at a slightly later point in my life, so for the past two years I’ve been working to start up my own small, creative business called “Gatekeeper Art”.

I have two creative “hats” I wear in my small business – one as an artist, and the other as a social historian with a community practice.

As an artist my inspiration is the local heritage of Paisley and Renfrewshire particularly aspects of design in the famous Paisley pattern shawls which feature prominently in my paintings. Prints, cards and original artworks are for sale in a variety of shops including the InCube Shop in Paisley and I take commissions for original paintings.

As a social historian all aspects of the unfolding story of Paisley and Renfrewshire are of great interest to me as I design and deliver heritage projects, participatory workshops and talks to a variety of client groups and participants in a community setting.  I love to see people engage, exchange memories, knowledge and discover new things about their shared heritage in Paisley and Renfrewshire.

To find out more about my work as an artist and social historian Gatekeeper Art has social media presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or you can contact me direct at gatekeeperart@gmail.com


What makes Paisley/Renfrewshire a great place to visit/live/invest/study/work?

For me Paisley and Renfrewshire is a great place to live and work as the rich heritage of the place is a constant inspiration to me as an artist and as a social historian.  The genuine interest and pride of the people of the area in their heritage is refreshing particularly as the main focus of the regeneration of the town of Paisley is on its heritage and culture…very inspirational…!


What makes the area special?

Well I think it says it all when you think of the affectionate name for a native of Paisley…a ”Paisley Buddie”. That is a “Paisley body”, someone of the town of Paisley with a pride and knowledge of where they come from and what they are about – and with an opinion on where their town will go! (Whether you agree with them or not…)

Paisley town centre has a special feel where – within a fairly small compact area well within a comfortable walking distance – the visitor can discover many different aspects of the town’s history from medieval through to Victorian industrial. You can do this easily with time to spare to enjoy a coffee and cake at one of the cafes in the town centre and possibly buy a souvenir print or card at the InCube shop before heading home!


If someone was visiting here, where would you recommend they go?

I’d say a visit to Paisley Abbey, the Sma’ Shot Cottages, Coats Memorial Church and Fountain Gardens should definitely be on the list.

Visit the collections of Paisley Museum and Art Galleries, including the fantastic Paisley shawl collection and some of the works of the brilliant artist John Byrne.

Support local artists, crafters and makers by buying a unique souvenir to remember Paisley by.

Come to the town on the annual Paisley Food and Drink Festival to try some of the fantastic local food and drink – particularly the real ale from some of the breweries based in Renfrewshire at the Beer Festival – and enjoy listening to some of the talented local musicians.

Time your visit to coincide with the local celebration of workers’ rights from the days of the original radical weavers of Paisley on Sma’ Shot Day – a festival steeped in the local heritage of Paisley and Renfrewshire.


The best hidden gem or untold story in Paisley/Renfrewshire is…

The best hidden gem, for me, is the Heritage Centre in Paisley. There are collections of old maps, digital photos and postcards, old newspapers, the Poor Relief registers and whole collection of books relating to the local heritage of Paisley and Renfrewshire. It’s a hidden treasure trove of archives about the people of Paisley and Renfrewshire!

An untold story of Paisley for me is the women’s heritage of Paisley and Renfrewshire.  The contribution made to the wealth of the town by the female workforce of the thread making industry a.k.a “the mill girls”.  From a recent heritage project I delivered, which focussed on forgotten women of Paisley’s past, I have to point to the massive contribution made by women such as Jane Arthur. She was the first woman to be elected on to a public education board in Scotland and championed girl’s education and women’s rights in 19th century Paisley.  There were many women in the famous Coats and Clark thread making family dynasties who remain unknown but who took part in many philanthropic causes in Paisley their stories remain untold… so far!


When we say ‘Paisley is…’, how you would finish the sentence?

Paisley is a wonderful pattern woven together through space and time, made up of people and place with a thread running through it, telling a story of honesty, pride, innovation, good times and bad times but always a survivor looking to the future.”

Find out more about InCube

I would advise any other creative businesses to think about setting up in Paisley because the potential is massive – there is such a great community of creative people.

Jane Hunter
Textile artist