In the latest in our series of Mill Mag x Paisley.is articles, Mill Magazine takes a look at Paisley’s unexpected ties to Trainspotting.

When you think of Scotland’s most enduring contributions to the arts, it’s generally split between the classical and the contemporary. Steeped in tradition and the ambiance of a rurally minded, romanticised Scotland that’s been lost to time, the poetic works of Robert Burns, Walter Scott and our own Robert Tannahill have withstood generations of new eyes and are celebrated the world over. In music, our folk heritage has instilled a wistful melody in the planet’s collective consciousness before artists ranging from Texas to Primal Scream and Biffy Clyro proved that we weren’t constrained to the ceilidh.

Yet when it comes to the nation’s greatest exports of the 20th century, one of Scotland’s crowning achievements not only abandoned much of the country’s wider cultural heritage, but seemed to actively hold it in contempt. First published in 1993, Trainspotting was an instant phenomenon that exposed a labyrinthine version of Leith defined by drugs, small-time schemes and a deep love of Iggy Pop. For its author Irvine Welsh, the debut novel’s appeal was expected on some level, but the scope has left him taken aback ever since.

“I thought it would become a cult book but not generation-defining, which is what other people have called it since”, he told The Guardian in 2018. “It’s strange, but it has taken on such a life of its own that when I see it on a shelf in a bookshop, it almost feels like someone else wrote it.”

Defined by its unflinching gallows humour and gritty depictions of life as an addict, this classic book intercepted the canon of Scotland’s finest works through the lens of a more deprived, less gilded version of the capital city. But while it may have taken place among the east coast’s ever-expanding urban sprawl, Irvine Welsh’s most universally beloved brainchild actually has inextricable ties to our own hometown of Paisley.

Despite taking place across Edinburgh and London, Welsh’s magnum opus establishes its relationship with Renfrewshire from its very opening salvo. Split across seven riveting sections including the introductory ‘Kicking’, the chaotic ‘Blowing It’ and the parting words of ‘Exit’, the first chapter of the entire book is snappily entitled “The Skag Boys, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Mother Superior.”

What’s the significance of this, you ask? Well, both this opening chapter and Trainspotting’s 2012 prequel cribs its name directly from Ferguslie’s finest export.

“There is a play called “The Slab Boys” by a great Scottish playwright called John Byrne”, Welsh informed CNN’s Payal Uttam in 2011. “I decided to call it ‘”Skagboys” as a parody of that.”

Set in the 1950’s and at the height of industrialisation, Byrne’s iconic trilogy — which commenced with the self-titled offering in 1978 — chronicles the lives and misadventures of Phil, ‘Spanky’ and Hector as they attempt to escape the slab room of Paisley’s A.F. Stobo & Co in search of a better life. While there are stark differences in the stakes and tone, both Trainspotting and Byrne’s theatrical masterwork chronicle the working-class experience with levity and an unstifled hopefulness that refuses to be overshadowed by some of its darker elements. On top of that, the use of colloquial language, slang and those rhythmic speaking patterns that can only be found in ungentrified circles is used to ground the reader or viewer in the atmosphere of their settings.

Where Trainspotting’s opening section made a subtle allusion to Byrne’s influence, ‘Skagboys’ – Welsh’s novel that is set in the preceding years before the events of Trainspotting — takes this one step further by introducing a character from Byrne’s neck of the woods.

While studying at Aberdeen University, the series ‘protagonist’ and occasional moral compass Mark Renton encounters a fellow student by the name of Joanne that is revealed to be from Paisley. Described as a “nosy Weedgie bird, no proper Weedgie, but fae somewhere near thaire”, he later undertakes an interrailing trip with her, his then-lover Fiona and friend ‘Bisto.’

In typically Welsh fashion, things soon devolve from there until later on in the tale, Renton receives a wedding invitation.  After initially upholding an uneasy truce, Joanne and ‘Bisto’ are set to be married at a church in Kilmacolm. As for the reception, Renfrewshire-based readers were soon accosted by the address of a familiar locale for all sorts of joyful occasions.

Bowfield Hotel and Country Club,

  Bowfield Road, Howwood, near Glasgow Airport, Renfrewshire, PA9 1DB

   RSVP: 115 Crookston Terrace, Paisley, PA1 3PF”

As anyone that’s visited will know, the Bowfield is a million miles removed from the squalid locales that many of Trainspotting’s most harrowing and educatory scenes take place in. Still, it’s remarkable to imagine the motley crew that both Welsh’s novel and the iconic, 1996 film adaptation ingrained into our minds all milling about in the hotel’s function suite.

On the subject of Trainspotting’s big screen adaptation, this legendary film’s creation was aided in part by a Paisley institution that’s familiar with births, deaths and everything in-between. Greenlit by Channel 4 Films and penned by veteran screenwriter John Hodge, the journey to Trainspotting’s production actually starts with the movie that provided the firmament for director Danny Boyle to carve out his illustrious career.

Starring Ewan McGregor — soon to be Renton in Trainspotting — Christopher Eccleston and New Zealand’s Kerry Fox, Boyle and Hodge’s 1994 thriller Shallow Grave has become a cult film in its own right and skyrocketed almost everyone involved to fame. Although that’s likely common knowledge by now, a lesser known fact is that the various scenes that take place in a medical facility were shot at Paisley’s very own Royal Alexandra Hospital. During a 2013 event at New York’s Academy Theatre, Boyle regaled the crowd with a comically morbid anecdote from his time on-set at the RAH.

“That scene at the end in the mortuary, where he gets pushed inside, that’s a real mortuary,” Danny recalled. “Chris Eccleston said ‘I can’t do this, can’t go in there.’ There were dead bodies in there so we had a bit of a crisis. Eventually we agreed that we’d put one of the prop guys in there so that when the door is closed and it goes dark, he wouldn’t be alone. You can hear it in the soundtrack, when the door closes and the lights go off, you can hear this guy going, ‘it’s alright Chris,’ very quietly.”

While this Paisley landmark helped craft the climactic moments of Trainspotting’s soon-to-be director’s first feature, it was Welsh’s classic source material, or more specifically, its stage adaptation, that helped spark the career of one of Paisley’s most recognisable exports.

Born on the 13th November 1969, the renowned actor Gerard Butler spent both his early years and adolescence in Paisley, even spending a spell as head boy at the now-defunct St Mirin’s Academy. From there, he’d go on to The University of Glasgow’s School of Law. After a period of floundering his way through life that saw him being fired from an Edinburgh law firm just days prior to obtaining his full qualification, things were looking decidedly grim for the young Butler.

However, it’d soon transpire that the seeds sown by witnessing Welsh’s Trainspotting come to life on-stage would not only be a formative experience that reignited the desire to act within the former Scottish Youth Theatre student, but a role that he felt he could embody with ease. After betting on himself and moving down to London with little in-roads to the entertainment world, Gerard depicted himself at this stage as a “kid who turns up, drinking like a fish, trying to get sober. And deciding I want to be an actor.”

Thankfully for Gerard, his natural aptitude for the dramatic arts and the experiences he’d had in his life meant that the transition was a relatively seamless one. After he’d began to find his feet within the craft, Gerard soon find himself assuming the very role that’d first piqued his interest.

“And within a year, I was back playing Renton on the same stage [where] I had watched the play a year before, at the Edinburgh Festival, a week before I was fired”, he told The Scotsman. “I swear to you on my life, I had watched the guy [in the Renton role] and said, ‘I know I can do this, and it’s breaking my heart.’”

Eventually giving way to a UK & Ireland tour throughout 1996, his portrayal of the misguided youth would account for his first attempt at the sort of multi-layered leading man role that he’d eventually become acquainted with in both lavish Hollywood epics and indie films alike.

In 2018, he and fellow actor Cameron Jack—who portrayed the imposing and psychopathic Begbie in the same adaptation, would reunite for a photo and celebrate how far they’d came from those heady days.

Left transfixed and motivated by what he’d seen at the Edinburgh festival, it’s no exaggeration to say that without the Harry Gibson adaptation of Welsh’s famous work, Paisley’s most renowned thespian may have never trodden the boards or appeared on-camera at all.

As the years have ticked by, Trainspotting’s legacy and cultural importance has continued to grow. In turn, ensuring that both the book and its filmic counterpart have came to represent two of the most seminal pieces of art to emerge from the 90’s. With its reputation continuing to expand and Welsh penning various sequels and offshoots, the idea of a sequel was banded about—and routinely swatted down—for many years. Arriving 20 years on from the initial adventures of Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Begbie, 2016’s T2: Trainspotting treated audiences to a window into how these characters had grown in the intervening years. And in most cases, proved that the wounds from those early years had yet to heal.

In keeping with tradition, the hotly anticipated sequel couldn’t come to fruition without some tie to our town. This time around, the link would come in the form of the character simply known as ‘Big Bear.’

Best known for his roles in River City, Only An Excuse and Still Game, not to mention his renown as a musical virtuoso, Paisley-born Tom Urie found himself on the call sheet for T2. As he informed us in August, the experience of working on the film proved to be a surreal one to say the very least.

“In every period of my career, it feels like something big comes along”, Tom remarked. “T2: Trainspotting was certainly one of those things.

“I was only in that for a minute, but that one scene has become really iconic. They filmed two hours of extra footage for T2 and they weren’t telling anyone what they were using. So, I didn’t know what was going to make it into the film or not and I didn’t know how it was going to go down because I thought ‘oh god (laughs)’. Thankfully, everyone on all sides of the spectrum laughed at it and no-one’s ever given me a hard time about it. I remember seeing it in the cinema and it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.”

“In every country, you’re going to get divisions”, he said of the scene’s satirical approach to sectarianism. “So, I think wherever anyone’s watching it, they’ll identify with it. Even if they don’t know the ins and outs.”

Rather than being seen as dispensable, Tom beamed about the care and attention with which Trainspotting’s acclaimed director Danny Boyle treated his cast.

“It was unbelievable, it was like nobody else I’ve ever worked with”, Urie enthused. “He knew everybody’s name. There was 200 people and he got to know everyone over those two or three days that we were filming. He came and sat down to have dinner with me, he’d read up on me and had even bought my album off Amazon! He was really, really generous and kind. I was a little bit starstruck because come on, it’s Danny Boyle! But no, he just sat happily and chatted away. He was telling me about all the music that he’d lined up for T2 and he was going on about (Scotland’s own) Young Fathers. It turns out that the guy from Underworld who wrote ‘Born Slippy’ (which soundtracks Trainspotting’s iconic conclusion) had also written the track that you hear in that scene (laughs). So, there’s a little-known fact for you!  Danny didn’t have to do all that. I was only there for four days, but he was an absolute gentleman.”

Heralded the world over as a literary and cinematic landmark, Trainspotting has long since surpassed the streets of Edinburgh in order to infiltrate the hearts, minds and in some cases, nightmares of fans the world over. Yet whether it arises from Welsh’s intense admiration of John Byrne, Danny Boyle’s trip to the RAH or the locally-born actors who’ve had their careers impacted by this seminal tale of wayward youth, this iconic story has impacted on and been impacted by our local community in ways that have went unsung for far too long.

More from Mill Mag x Paisley.is series

It was a very snowy start to the week with the cold weather transforming Paisley and Renfrewshire into a beautiful wintery landscape.

Social media has been full of stunning images of landmarks in our towns and villages and our (usually) green spaces covered in snow over the past few days.

Take a look at some of the amazing photos captured this week by our followers and more spectacular snowy sights spotted on Instagram.

Plus, you can send your pictures to us over at our Facebook and Twitter channels.

Image – Sunset over a snowy Paisley by @lp_travelgeek on Twitter

Image – A snowy Paisley Abbey by @Erinkate_92 on Twitter

 

Image – Snowfall beside Paisley Town Hall by @lp_travelgeek Twitter

Image – Snow and ice at Craigielinn Fall at Gleniffer Braes by @gbc123 on Twitter

Image – Anchor Mill in Paisley by @lp_travelgeek on Twitter

Image – Snow in Lochwinnoch by @sparkybrain on Twitter

 

 

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Take a look at these stunning images captured by local photographer Gary Chittick as he showcases the area’s beauty with his work.

Gary Chittick spends his working week as a project lead and manager for Renfrewshire Council, but his spare time sees him indulge in his love of the outdoors and photography.

Gary says Paisley will always be somewhere that he can connect with. The town and Renfrewshire gives him a constant supply of subjects, from unique historical buildings and architecture to green spaces and landscapes.

Here, he tells you the stories behind some of his favourite photographs taken around Paisley.

Aurora from Glennifer Braes

As an experienced “aurora chaser”, this was an image from one of my favourite displays from Renfrewshire. The beams and movement were visible to the naked eye and lasted about 20 minutes.

 

Paisley Skyline and Noctilucent Clouds

Often visible between May and July, these noctilucent (night shining) clouds made for an interesting horizon on this view from Saucel Hill.

 

Glennifer Braes Lightning

A disclaimer first – I do not recommend standing outside in a lightning storm with an assortment of metallic items. The chance of capturing a lightning bolt in our own backyard was too inviting to pass up though!

 

Anchor Mill and Noctilucent Clouds

An evening image of the iconic Anchor Mills but this time with a very still White Cart River and some noctilucent clouds visible to the north.

 

Paisley Abbey

The historic Paisley Abbey always looks amazing – and is particularly stunning when lit up for various events in the town.

 

Glennifer Braes, Tree Lined Avenue

 

Without doubt, my favourite tree-lined avenue in Renfrewshire on the Glennifer Braes. It looks amazing no matter the season. This image was taken in winter.

 

Craigielinn Falls, Glennifer Braes Country Park

This waterfall can be spectacular, especially after some rain. Best of all, it’s right on our doorstep.

You can follow Gary’s photography via:

www.instagram.com/gbc123

www.twitter.com/gbc123

Plus, find out more about Gary with his Paisley.is blog by clicking the link below:

In a town that sees creeping influences of Mackintosh and Thomson amongst others, it very much extends the structural beauty of Glasgow to its neighbour in the west.

Neil Robertson
Blogger
Travels With A Kilt

With events on hold and venues closed right now, the Future Paisley Podcast offers a series of conversations between people working in culture and in communities.

The episodes explore the impact of Covid-19 on culture and in neighbourhoods – with debate on the challenges, responses and ideas for the future.

The podcast can be listened to on Soundcloud with new episodes released every two weeks.

Future Paisley is a programme of economic, social and physical regeneration building on the work already done to use Paisley’s internationally-significant culture and heritage story to change its fortunes

Through a partnership of local, regional and national organisations, Future Paisley is harnessing the power of culture to change lives and places for the better across Renfrewshire.

Future Paisley Podcast #5: John Byrne’s Underwood Lane Special

Listen to the podcast now on Soundcloud

The fifth Future Paisley podcast features Artistic Director of the Tron Theatre, Andy Arnold, and musical director, Hilary Brooks (Sunshine on Leith) who have an engaging and thought provoking discussion on the wonders of live theatre, place and music. The podcast also features a very special guest appearance from legendary Paisley born playwright and artist John Byrne, as he shares his memories of Paisley, and his experience writing of the play.

Future Paisley Podcast #4: Sound of The Lockdown

Listen to the podcast now on Soundcloud

 

In the fourth instalment of the podcast Paisley musicians Linzi Clark (DRIFT) and Marie Collins (The Vegan Leather) have a conversation highlighting the incredible work they both do in nurturing and supporting vital connections with other musicians. They also address the struggles they have faced during lockdown and give an honest account of the highs and lows of being young women pursuing careers in music. This podcast highlights the importance of place for a creative community, and ends with a long list bands and musicians to listen too from Paisley and Renfrewshire!

Future Paisley Podcast #3: Culture, Community, Family and Faith

Listen to the podcast now on Soundcloud

Welcome to Engage Renfrewshire’s New Buddies Network officer Gozie Joe Adigwe and Jambo! Radio founder George Tah. Gozie and George share an enriching conversation exploring cultures, heritage, place, diversity, language and family and look to a future shaped by understanding, tolerance and community.

Future Paisley Podcast #2: Lochwinnoch on Lockdown

Listen to the podcast now on Soundcloud

This week, the podcast catches up with writer Alan Bissett and musician Crawford Smith. Based in Lochwinnoch, this episode explores the new roles they have found themselves in, the impact Covid-19 has had on their careers and their village, and looking at new ways of giving their work a platform.

 

Future Paisley Podcast #1: Cultural Conversations

Listen to the podcast now on Soundcloud

The first Future Paisley podcast welcomes Sharon McAulay from Star Project and Alan McNiven from Engage Renfrewshire. This conversation explores the role that culture plays during lockdown and the rise of new digital barriers they are both working to overcome.

Paisley Halloween Festival has been named Best Cultural Event or Festival at the Scottish Thistle Awards 2019/2020 National Final.

Organised by VisitScotland, the prestigious awards celebrate innovation, excellence and success in the Scottish tourism sector.

The popular event in Renfrewshire Council’s annual calendar picked up the National Award for its 2018 festival, which saw crowds of over 34,000 people flock to the town across two days to enjoy a bumper programme of spectacular aerial performances, thrilling live acts and a Mardi-Gras style parade with more than 500 costumed performers.

Inspired by the town’s dark and deathly 17th century witch history, the enhanced theme of ‘Something Wicked this Way Comes’ thrilled visitors from all over Scotland.

Judges were impressed with the seasonality of the event and the growth that it has seen in recent years. They also praised event organisers for their engagement with young people and the community.

The festival was a highlight of VisitScotland’s Year of Young People 2018 celebrations, with young people at the heart of the festival’s development and delivery.

A 20-strong Youth Panel worked alongside Renfrewshire Council’s Events Team to design and deliver the programme, while more than 500 young people took part in a new creative learning programme. This provided young people with the opportunity to participate in all aspects of festival from performance to live event management and technical production.

The Scottish Thistle Awards is based on five regional programmes with the winners of each progressing to the National Final.

Paisley Halloween Festival was among 15 winners in the regional finals for the West in November – which included businesses and individuals from Greater Glasgow & The Clyde Valley, Ayrshire & Arran, Dumfries & Galloway and Argyll & Bute.

The National Final took place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre last night (March 5), and saw 18 individuals, businesses and events honoured for their contribution to the tourism sector.

Louisa Mahon, Renfrewshire Council’s Head of Communications, Marketing and Events, said: “We are absolutely thrilled that Paisley Halloween Festival has won Best Festival in Scotland at the Scottish Thistle Awards. We were in a category with some of Scotland’s most amazing cultural events and are delighted to be keeping company with them. Well done to everyone.

“Paisley Halloween is one of the most highly anticipated events in our calendar – and is now regarded as one of the biggest and best of its kind in the UK.

“Winning this award continues to put Paisley on the map as a great place to visit and experience world class cultural events – and we look forward to continuing to welcome even more people to Paisley to enjoy.”

VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director Gordon Smith, said: “Congratulations to everyone at Renfrewshire Council on winning the national Scottish Thistle Award for Best Cultural Event or Festival. This is a fantastic achievement for Paisley Halloween Festival which has become one of the most anticipated events in the region’s calendars which has gone from strength to strength in recent years.

“The Scottish Thistle Awards give businesses and individuals working within tourism in Scotland the opportunity to earn the recognition and appreciation they deserve from their own industry peers.

“The impact of tourism goes far beyond the holiday experience. It is vital to the Scottish economy, reaching every corner of the country, creating jobs and bringing economic and social change.”

The Scottish Thistle Award marks another celebration for the Paisley Halloween Festival after it won Best Festival or Outdoor Event at the EventIt E Awards in June 2019.

The Paisley Halloween Festival is organised by Renfrewshire Council and the 2018 event was supported by the Year of Young People 2018 event fund managed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.

For more information on the Scottish Thistle Awards, visit: https://www.scottishthistleawards.co.uk/

Find out more about Paisley Halloween Festival

We are getting involved in everything from the technical side and working with aerial artists to creating large props and helping with special effects. I am really looking forward to seeing how everything will work together.

Kate McBurnie, 15 years old
Paisley 2018 Halloween Youth Panel

More fantastic events in Renfrewshire this year

PACE Theatre Company has announced actor James McArdle as its first patron. And the announcement comes as the company reveals the location of the building which is to be transformed into a new community theatre space for Paisley.

EXCHANGE will be dedicated to promoting and developing theatre for children, young people and families; as well as promoting participation by young people through performance and creative learning opportunities.

The vacant building on Old Sneddon St in Paisley, was most recently the site of a former nightclub (Mannequins) but was built as the New Templar Hall in 1932 and has been variously used as a dance hall, cinema and telephone exchange in its lifetime.

The building will provide a home venue for PACE’s own performances (almost 200 annually) as well as hosting a programme of professional touring productions, and offering an alternative venue for Renfrewshire’s thriving community performance scene. It’s planned flexible-use spaces will also allow for a host of creative learning opportunities.

James is a former PACE Youth Theatre member and since graduating from RADA in 2010 he has garnered a string of impressive credits including title roles in James I, Platonov and Peter Gynt at the National Theatre, a Broadway transfer of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, and as the Earl of Moray in the 2019 feature film Mary Queen of Scots.

 

James McArdle on being a patron of PACE

“I’ll always be grateful to PACE for the start that they gave me on my journey to becoming an actor, not just the skills I learnt when acting but how to have confidence in myself and hold my own. It is a privilege to be able support them in their ambitions.

“I have experienced first-hand that theatre has the power to be life-changing and already, it’s clear that through this building they will be able to create even more opportunities for young people and their families.

“It’s still the happiest time of my life, I felt like I had a voice and was listened to at PACE even though I was young. It taught me I had value and worth which has been a vital part in becoming an actor but also just in growing up.”

 

The award-winning Paisley Halloween Festival has scooped another top prize after it was named Best Cultural Event or Festival at the 2019/20 Scottish Thistle Awards West Scotland regional finals.

Organised by VisitScotland, the awards celebrate innovation, excellence and success in the Scottish hospitality and tourism sector.

The popular event in Renfrewshire Council’s annual calendar picked up the award for its 2018 festival, which saw crowds of over 34,000 people flock to the town across two days to enjoy an action-packed programme of spectacular aerial performances, thrilling live acts and a Mardi-Gras style parade with more than 500 costumed performers.

Inspired by the town’s dark and deathly 17th century witch history, the enhanced theme of ‘Something Wicked this Way Comes’ thrilled visitors from all over Scotland.

The festival was also one of the major events as part of VisitScotland’s Year of Young People 2018 celebrations, with young people at the heart of the festival’s development and delivery.

A 20-strong Youth Panel worked alongside Renfrewshire Council’s Events Team to design and deliver the programme, while more than 500 young people took part in a new creative learning programme. This provided young people with the opportunity to participate in all aspects of festival from performance to live event management and technical production.

Paisley Halloween Festival was among 15 winners in the Regional Finals for the West last week – including businesses and individuals from Greater Glasgow & The Clyde Valley, Ayrshire & Arran, Dumfries & Galloway and Argyll & Bute – and will now go on to the prestigious National Final on March 5, 2020.

Louisa Mahon, Renfrewshire Council’s Head of Communications, Marketing and Events, said: “We are delighted that the Paisley Halloween Festival has been recognised alongside the very best of the Scottish tourism industry at the Scottish Thistle Awards West Regional Final.

“The festival continues to grow larger and more creative each year – and is now regarded as one of the biggest and best events of its kind in the UK. It has also helped to raise Paisley’s profile and cement the town’s reputation as a place to come and see world class cultural events.

“We look forward to taking our place alongside all of the outstanding Regional Finals winners at the National Finals in March.”

Gordon Smith, VisitScotland Regional Director, said: “Congratulations to Renfrewshire Council on winning Best Cultural Event or Festival for Paisley Halloween Festival at the Scottish Thistle Awards regional finals. Taking over the streets of Paisley every Halloween, the Festival it has become one of the most hotly anticipated events in the region’s calendar, which this year welcomed record crowds and was supported by EventScotland’s National Events Fund. I wish the team the very best for the national finals in March.

“The Scottish Thistle Awards give businesses and individuals working within tourism in Scotland the opportunity to earn the recognition and appreciation they deserve from their own industry peers. They celebrate those people and businesses throughout the country responsible for offering the warmest of welcomes that Scotland is famous for.”

The Scottish Thistle Award marks a double celebration for the Paisley Halloween Festival after it won Best Festival or Outdoor Event at the EventIt E Awards in June.

The Paisley Halloween Festival is organised by Renfrewshire Council and the 2018 event was supported by the Year of Young People 2018 event fund managed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.

This year’s festival, which took place on Friday 25 and Saturday 26 October 2019, continued to grow with a Dark Circus theme delivered alongside internationally-acclaimed outdoor theatre specialists, Cirque Bijou, and saw the entire town centre transformed into a thrilling Halloween playground.

For more information on the Scottish Thistle Awards, visit: https://www.scottishthistleawards.co.uk/

Best Cultural Event or Festival Scottish Thistle Awards

Find out more about Paisley Halloween Festival

We are getting involved in everything from the technical side and working with aerial artists to creating large props and helping with special effects. I am really looking forward to seeing how everything will work together.

Kate McBurnie, 15 years old
Paisley 2018 Halloween Youth Panel

Paisley celebrated its biggest ever Halloween Festival as 41,000 people flocked to the town to see the amazing floats, circus performers and spectacular Mardi-Gras style parade.

One of the largest festivals of its kind in the UK, this year’s Dark Circus themed event was delivered alongside internationally-acclaimed outdoor theatre specialists, Cirque Bijou, who helped transform the entire town centre into the perfect Halloween playground.

More than 350 costumed performers and community groups took part in the parade, the centrepiece of the festival, which wound its way through the town centre, led by the sinister Svengali ringmaster.

The parade also featured fantastic, giant lion and elephant floats, ferocious fire performers, creepy clowns and curious creatures, to delight the gathered crowds.

Another spectacle of the festival was the dazzling aerial performances from aerial artists, All or Nothing, who performed their death-defying act ‘Into the Dark’.

The performance saw the artists take to the skies to circle and swirl around a haunted carousel over the grounds of the town’s iconic Abbey.

Crowds were entertained with top-class live performances from the likes of Spark LED Drummers, Mr Wilson’s Second Liners and Big Grey on the Circus Stage.

A funfair and cinema screening of popular Halloween films added to the packed programme, while families enjoyed workshops including pumpkin carving and costume making workshops.

The Silent Disco also proved a welcome addition to the festival offering plenty of dancing, singing and Halloween fun for all the family.

Amanda Clarke from Motherwell, said: “This is our first time to the event, we saw it online and wanted to come along. It’s been a great day out with the kids. We’ll definitely be back next year.”

Kirsty Cameron from Paisley said: “It’s really well put together, I bring the family most years and it’s always very good with lots going on.”

The Paisley Halloween Festival, which was supported in 2018 through the Year of Young People event fund, was awarded £16,950 of National Programme funding from EventScotland for this year’s event.

More fun to come!

Award-winning photographer Gary Chittick will be regularly sharing his spectacular pictures with you on his Paisley.is blog.

Gary marks the start of springtime by showing off some of his favourite images captured in Renfrewshire at this time of year.

March is the month of the Vernal/ Spring Equinox when the equator is the closest point of Earth to the sun.

It is also the month of the Equilux when day and night are of equal lengths. This is quickly followed by the start of British Summer Time on Sunday 31 March, unfortunately meaning an hour less in bed. Booooo!

I thought I’d share a few images from Renfrewshire from this time of year. I hope you enjoy them.

Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park

Clyde Muirshiel in spring by Gary Chittick

The change from winter to spring is a good time to explore local gem, Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park in Lochwinnoch. There are a number of great walks around the park, including a popular local hike up Windy Hill. I have spent a great deal of time walking around the park at all times of the day and night (not for the feint hearted or those scared of unusual noises in the dark!) and the longer days make the park more accessible for those looking to stretch their legs in daylight after work.

This image was taken on the walk up to Windy Hill with the changing colours and low cloud making for a moody scene. I’m looking forward to taking a lot more images here this year.

Paisley Sunsets

Paisley skyline by Gary Chittick

Paisley certainly has an amazing skyline for sunsets and March into April has the sun in a good position over the horizon (depending on your viewpoint) for sunset images. Seeing a colourful sunset is often a a mix of luck, timing and a little help from mother nature but it’s the sort of event to sit, watch and enjoy. You can really admire the unique skyline from all around the town and Paisley has some great viewpoints for sunset, including Saucel Hill, Barshaw Park and here, Barshaw Golf Course. Here’s hoping for many more.

A Wee Calf

Who can resist a cute baby, whether human or animal? The change from winter into spring obviously means that the thoughts of many of Renfrewshire’s resident wildlife turns to creating new life. The next few weeks and months will see a range of baby animals join our world. Whilst this is a time to be extra careful around animals with young – especially if you have a pet of your own – it is also a time to enjoy the sights and sounds this new life gives us.

For this image, a young calf and it’s siblings enjoy some spring sunshine up near Hartfield Farm on the Glennifer Braes.

Renfrewshire Aurora

Renfrewshire Aurora by Gary Chittick

The equinoxes (Spring and Autumn) have typically resulted in an increased chance of aurora. NASA’s research suggests that this is because of the Earth’s “tilt” towards the sun at these times of year which makes it easier for our magnetic field to connect with the charged particles in the solar wind. As you may have seen with some of my previous images, I’ve observed the aurora many times from Renfrewshire and there is always an extra hope at this time of year for increased activity.

To show you what a “good” aurora can look like from the area, here is one from Lochwinnoch. Remember that the camera enhances what you can see by eye and most people see the aurora as a greyish, greenish glow, until you have movement which is much easier to see. The moral here is, if the aurora is on your bucket list, it IS possible to see it from Renfrewshire!

Remember that the Spring Equinox traditionally marks a time for new beginnings, birth and fresh starts, so be positive and get out there and find something fresh and exciting to do in Renfrewshire!

Gary’s pictures are not available for use without his permission.

Find out more about Gary

I love the fabulous architecture - Paisley Abbey, Coats Memorial and the town hall, all within walking distance.

Barbara Erskine
What's Our Story?

Day visits to Renfrewshire almost doubled between 2015 and 2017, new figures have revealed.

The sharp rise was unveiled in the first annual update of the Renfrewshire Visitor Plan 2018-2021, which aims to develop the area as one of Scotland’s key tourist destinations.

It showed that day visits to Renfrewshire rose from 2.73 million between 2013-2015 to 5.33 million between 2015-2017 – with the area’s thriving events calendar proving popular with visitors.

There was also an increase in day and overnight visitor spend from £72.5 million to £99.1 million during the same period.

The first update of the Renfrewshire Visitor Plan – which was shown before Renfrewshire Council’s Leadership Board – includes the following key achievements:

– visitor numbers to Renfrewshire’s events are expected to exceed growth of 8% in 2018 – surpassing the target of 4% year-on-year;

– The delivery of 15 events, including four major visitor events in 2017 – Paisley Food and Drink Festival, the British Pipe Band Championships, The Spree Festival and Paisley Halloween Festival – all of which witnessed increased attendee numbers;

– the launch of Paisley Welcomes, a new customer service excellence and product familiarisation training programme to enhance the visitor experience in Renfrewshire;

– increased support for tourism business growth with 53 businesses supported and 34 businesses and agencies now regularly engaged in a tourism business network.

This year also saw the development and launch of a new destination brand and the area’s first ever digital guide to Paisley and Renfrewshire – www.Paisley.is.

The website promotes Paisley and Renfrewshire as a place to live work and visit and offers a guide to what’s on across the region, with dedicated content for each town, village and attraction.

Renfrewshire Council Leader Iain Nicolson said: “It’s fantastic to see such positive results in the first annual report of the Renfrewshire Visitor Plan as we continue to work towards transforming tourism in the area.

Gordon Smith, VisitScotland Regional Director, said: “This incredible increase in day visits and spend in Renfrewshire is testament to the brilliant work being done to boost the area’s tourism and events offering.

“Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it is the heartbeat of the Scottish economy and touches every community, generating income, jobs and social change.  VisitScotland is committed to encouraging and supporting the industry to provide world class service, facilities, events and attractions to keep up with ever-changing consumer demands and it is clear that Renfrewshire is making huge strides to ensure visitors continue to have memorable experiences in the region.”

It will be fantastic to see young people getting hands-on experience and participating in the design and delivery of a fun event within their local community.

Paul Bush OBE
VisitScotland Director of Events