There’s nothing better than chips on the road home after a night out – and broadcaster Nicola Meighan rounds off her adventure in Paisley with a visit to legendary chip shop Castelvecchi, owned by the family of a certain Paolo Nutini.

Here, Nicola looks at the singer-songwriter’s rise to hero status in his hometown.

In 2006, a Paisley singer-songwriter released his debut single. The song was called ‘Last Request’, the artist was Paolo Nutini, and along with putting his name on the map, it drew attention to another beloved Paisley landmark: Castelvecchi, his family’s legendary chip shop, where the pop star worked shifts in his teens.

It’s a warm, nostalgic gem of a place – minutes on foot from Paisley Gilmour Street train station in the town centre – with a friendly welcome, superb fish and chips (extensive research was undertaken), and walls bedecked with café memorabilia, including an old-school pinball machine. And, often, Paolo’s charming dad behind the counter.

Nutini’s apprenticeship wasn’t just served in Castelvecchi: as a youngster, he attended Paisley’s PACE Youth Theatre, whose alumni also includes actors Richard Madden and James McAvoy and singer-songwriter David Sneddon, who has latterly written for Will Young, Olly Murs and Lana Del Rey.

Sneddon won reality TV competition Fame Academy in 2002, but he wasn’t the first performer from Paisley to top the UK charts on the back of a telly talent show: that accolade went to Kelly Marie, who appeared on Opportunity Knocks in the mid-70s, and subsequently had a disco smash with a track written by Ray Dorset from Mungo Jerry which was originally intended for Elvis Presley: the hurtling ‘Feels Like I’m In Love’.

In 2003, Paisley Town Hall hosted a homecoming gala for Sneddon, in the wake of his win and chart success. But legend has it that he was late, and the crowd were getting restless, so a hip young gunslinger jumped on the stage and grabbed the mic, and swaggered into the spotlight. It was Paolo Nutini. He worked wonders. The man who’d become his manager was in the crowd.

Paolo Nutini plays Paisley Abbey for The Spree

Three years later, Nutini’s soul-wracked, instant-classic debut album, These Streets, scaled the UK charts. Among its myriad charms, and hits like ‘New Shoes’ and ‘Jenny Don’t Be Hasty’, were various Paisley signposts and memories – from the title track’s nod to Glenfield Road to the record’s swansong, ‘Alloway Grove’.

Nutini’s follow-up LPs – 2009’s Sunny Side Up and 2014’s Caustic Love – were both UK Number One hits, giving rise to favourites like ‘Pencil Full of Lead’, ‘Coming Up Easy’ and ‘Let Me Down Easy’, and bagging him a prestigious Ivor Novello songwriting award along the way.

He’s played several thrilling hometown shows since, including an impromptu karaoke session in Paisley’s Harvies Bar in 2019, where he belted out Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ with a party crowd – the footage is online, and joyous – and a roof-raising concert at Paisley Abbey in 2017.

Paolo Nutini performs with his band at Paisley Abbey in 2017

Nutini played lots of hits and favourites at that Paisley Abbey show, but he also performed an outstanding version of a song that’s become an unofficial anthem for the town, and he paid tribute to its writer, the local 18th Century weaver poet Robert Tannahill, whose Braes of Balquidder evolved into the much-loved (and much-performed) ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’.

All of the crowd sang along that night – a resounding, roof-raising celebration of Paisley’s architecture, history, poetry, music, awesome chips and brilliant songs. And we’ll all go together.

Nicola Meighan is a music and arts journalist and broadcaster (The Herald, STV, BBC Scotland). She presents the Afternoon Show on BBC Radio Scotland, every Friday, 2-4pm.

Find out more about Paisley’s rich music story with our film below.

These streets have too many names for me / I’m used to Glenfield Road and spending my time down in Orchy…

Paolo Nutini
Song - These Streets

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Broadcaster Nicola Meighan visits The Bungalow venue and traced its legacy back to Paisley’s punk explosion, and counter-cultural legacy – via Pam Hogg, Groucho Marxist records and more!

Punk might have been fired up by anarchy and sticking it to The Man, but we’ve got Glasgow’s last bastion of bureaucracy – the City Council – to thank for the DIY rock revolution that galvanised Paisley in the mid-late 1970s and beyond.

Panicked by a blaze of media hysteria – and some legendary rammies in local venues – Glasgow councillors effectively (if unofficially) prohibited punk gigs after a Stranglers concert at the City Halls in 1977, so bands – and fans – had to find an alternative stomping ground.

Taking punk’s touchstones of innovation, activism, and doing-it-yourself, promoters started booking Paisley gigs for bands who’d usually be Glasgow-bound, largely at the Silver Thread hotel (thanks to the righteously-named Disco Harry) and The Bungalow Bar, whose booker, Loudon Temple, has written a fab history of the local punk explosion.

Between them, they welcomed Elvis Costello, Buzzcocks, Paul Young’s Q-Tips, the Boomtown Rats, Echo and the Bunnymen, Orange Juice, Aztec Camera and countless others to the town, its bars, its stages and dance-floors – and offered a wealth of inspiration (and coveted support slots) for local music fans and bands.

It galvanised a grassroots scene that included Paisley upstarts Fire Exit, The Zips, XS Discharge, Liberty Bodice, The Sneex, The Fegs, Mentol Errors, Defiant Pose and more. Some of these acts released music on Paisley music co-operative / label Groucho Marxist records, which was helmed by Tommy Kayes via the local Socialist Workers’ Party and the TUC Club in Orr Square, which also gave rise to the town’s Rock Against Racism chapter, which held festivals in Ferguslie Park.

Record shops like Stereo One, The Record Market and Listen were also instrumental to supporting its music scene – as was one of Bruce Findlay’s legendary music joints: fans were ferried to Paisley from the city on buses that left from outside one of Bruce’s Records in Glasgow.

Punk, of course, extended way beyond music, and another Paisley counter-cultural legend would upturn the fashion landscape with her iconoclastic vision. Pam Hogg’s sonic adventures included late-‘70s band Rubbish (who often played with The Pogues), ‘80s Acid House outfit Garden of Eden, and ‘90s alternative rock act Doll (who supported Blondie among others), but she’s best known as one of the world’s most celebrated designers. Her punk-inspired outfits have been worn by Debbie Harry, Siouxsie Sioux, Kylie Minogue, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Bjork and many more since the 1980s.

Paisley’s underground revolution thrived throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s too, thanks to pioneering artists like Drew McDowall (who played with Psychic TV and Coil, and formed the Poems with a pre-Strawberry Swtichblade Rose McDowall), indie-pop favourites the Close Lobsters, and cult-pop renaissance man Momus – not to mention a burgeoning rave scene thanks to Club 69, and record shops like The Record Factory and Apollo Music (which became Feel The Groove…)

These days, the Silver Thread’s a fond memory, and The Bungalow’s moved house – from its original Renfrew Road location to the town’s more central Shuttle Street. It may have changed addresses, but its spirit of nurturing upcoming voices, fresh sounds and rising stars prevails, with recent events including the Scottish Alternative Music Awards’ Paisley Takeover.

The Bungalow, Paisley

The town’s new sounds are as vibrant, eclectic and inventive as ever, thanks to students at the University of the West of Scotland, and acts like art-pop harmonists The Vegan Leather, rapper Washington, and jazz livewire Kitti. The beat goes on.

Nicola Meighan is a music and arts journalist and broadcaster (The Herald, STV, BBC Scotland). She presents the Afternoon Show on BBC Radio Scotland, every Friday, 2-4pm.

Come on down the front / let’s have some fun…

Fire Exit
Song - Let The Show Begin

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Journalist and broadcaster Nicola Meighan visits Brown’s Lane and the Gerry Rafferty mural to reflect on the singer’s Paisley roots and his timeless resonance in the town.

Way down the street, there’s a light in his place. Gerry Rafferty was born round here, in Underwood Lane – an address that’s set to become the title of a John Byrne play written in memory of the man and his work.

In the meantime, you can stumble upon him a few roads yonder – illuminated and larger-than-life – on the gable-end of a tenement in Brown’s Lane, thanks to Danny McDermott’s mural tribute to one of Paisley’s most distinctive, best-loved and sorely-missed voices.

The son of Mary Skeffington (immortalised in his song of the same name), Gerry Rafferty wove a folk, pop and rock ‘n’ roll tapestry that charted – among other things – a collaboration with Billy Connolly in ‘60s banjo cads the Humblebums; a ‘70s union with with fellow Paisley buddy Joe Egan in folk-rock harmonists Stealers Wheel (whose songs included the timeless Hollywood favourite, ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’); and a hugely successful solo career that included hits like ‘Baker Street’, ‘Get It Right Next Time’, ‘Night Owl’, ‘City to City’ and ‘Right Down The Line’.

He also contributed vocals to Mark Knopfler’s hugely successful Local Hero soundtrack (‘The Way It Always Starts’), and produced The Proclaimers’ breakthrough hit, ‘Letter From America’.

Six decades since leaving St Mirin’s Academy – since his early days writing songs, playing music and busking – Rafferty remains a beacon in Paisley’s vibrant folk and songwriting tradition that also counts legends like folk champion Danny Kyle, Scots tearaways the Tannahill Weavers, and country / blues / pop treasure Carol Laula among its number.

We lost Gerry Rafferty in 2011, but his voice and songs continue to ring out across the town, and over the world. Paisley has hosted various tributes to him over the years, including the Bring It All Back Home series of concerts in 2014 – which starred Rafferty’s daughter, Martha, and long-term friends and collaborators Barbara Dickson and Rab Noakes, among others – and 2017’s mass saxophone rendition of Baker Street, as part of Paisley’s 2021 City of Culture bid, to mark what would have been his 70th birthday.

Throughout his musical life, another Paisley comrade – the artist, playwright and renaissance man John Byrne (Cuttin’ A Rug, Tutti Frutti, The Slab Boys, the forthcoming Underwood Lane) – visually brought Rafferty’s music to life, thanks to a series of striking record covers, ranging from from early Humblebums releases to Rafferty’s 2021 posthumous album, Rest In Blue.

Among that latter record’s gorgeous songs is a version of ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’, which crackles with Rafferty’s heartening, heartbreaking voice, and traces its roots back to Paisley’s original weaver poet, Robert Tannahill, whose 18th Century work, ‘The Braes of Balquhither’, evolved into ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’.

You can visit Robert Tannahill’s statue outside Paisley Town Hall; you can wander up to the Rafferty mural, round the corner from the Bungalow Bar; you can even make your way to Gerry Rafferty Drive. Their words, their songs, their ideas and images light up these streets. Will ye go, lassie, go?

Nicola Meighan is a music and arts journalist and broadcaster (The Herald, STV, BBC Scotland). She presents the Afternoon Show on BBC Radio Scotland, every Friday, 2-4pm. 

Look back on a home where you spent the best years of your life…

Gerry Rafferty
Song - Mary Skeffington

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In the first of her series of fantastic blogs for, Nicola Meighan takes a look at the music history and heritage of the iconic Paisley Abbey.

In 2019, Paisley musician Michael Cassidy’s career went down the drain. Ordinarily, such a statement – and direction – would be a cause for concern, but in Cassidy’s case, he was celebrating a rich tradition of underground and enduring sounds that have shaken up the town’s identity and culture for centuries – from archaic subterranean tunes to folk rebellions, punk uprisings, and pop surprises.

An acclaimed singer-songwriter, whose star is soundly on the rise, Cassidy was involved in a project to breathe new life into one of Paisley’s most fascinating landmarks. It involved the town’s striking 12th Century Abbey, a subsequently-built medieval drain, and an archaeological dig that uncovered its ancient treasures.

Singer Michael Cassidy performs in Paisley Abbey Drain

The underground passageway held myriad hidden secrets, including a slate inscribed with a love poem – which is fitting for such a lyrical town – and another etched with a fragment of music, dated to the mid-15th Century.

A piece of carved slate recovered during the excavations in the Abbey drain

It’s considered to be the oldest surviving example of polyphonic music in Scotland, and hundreds of years later, in 2019, Michael Cassidy was tasked with reinterpreting the fragment, which inspired a new song, ‘Colour the Darkness’. He was quoted at the time as saying that the lyrics reflected on the mystery of the drain, how it had gone unnoticed for years in the darkness, and that finding out more about what’s underground has added colour to our knowledge of Paisley.

Cassidy connects his home town’s historic legacy with its industrious and innovative spirit. He received the inaugural Gerry Rafferty Prize for songwriting in 2012, and his father, John, was a founder member of Paisley ‘70s trad-folk trailblazers the Tannahill Weavers. They named themselves in tribute to the town’s original 18th Century weaver poet, Robert Tannahill, whose statue stands proud outside Paisley Town Hall.

He also carries this heritage forward, and in addition to the Paisley drain project, Michael Cassidy has worked with local communities and young songwriters, using the town’s fertile past as a jumping-off point for new voices and songs.

The Abbey, too, rings out with new and original music in the 21st Century. Alongside a programme of classical and choral events, it’s been the backdrop (and centrepiece) for incredible performances from artists like Paolo Nutini, Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad, Idlewild, Roddy Hart, Del Amitri’s Justin Currie and King Creosote, often joining forces with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra as part of the Spree festival.

Paolo Nutini concert at Paisley Abbey

It’s become a landmark venue on the Scottish music map, alongside Paisley’s nearby Town Hall, which hosted three years of the Scottish Album of the Year Award, and the new incarnation of the Bungalow Bar, a few streets away, which offers upcoming talent a stage, and local music fans a world of world of adventure that can be traced back in time – through pop, punk, folk and poetry, to a hidden drain, to Paisley Abbey, to its space, and light, and dark, and voices: to the sound of the past, the future, the underground.

Nicola Meighan is a music and arts journalist and broadcaster (The Herald, STV, BBC Scotland). She presents the Afternoon Show on BBC Radio Scotland, every Friday, 2-4pm. 

A nod to our past / we built things to last…

Michael Cassidy
Song - Colour the Darkness

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Find out more about Paisley Abbey and the town's rich music history

Paisley Is Calling – discover a genuine & authentic experience, that might be more than you expected.

There is more to Paisley than you might think. From an incredible skyline featuring stunning architecture to remarkable stories; authentic makers to surprising adventurers and genuinely welcoming hosts. Let us surprise and delight you with our beautiful town, it’s rich history, and with just how much there is to explore.

The Future Paisley Podcast is a series of conversations between people working in culture and in communities.

The latest episode (#11) explores the impact of Covid-19 on culture and in neighbourhoods – with debate on the challenges, responses and ideas for the future.

It sees local artists Caitlin Mooney and Indie McCue, Gillian Steele, director of ReMode, and Robert Blair, editor of Mill Magazine, discuss their hopes for Paisley’s future and how to create public spaces that reconnect us in a post-pandemic world.

This special episode was filmed in the Future Paisley exhibition which showcases the town’s pioneering approach to culture-led regeneration, and is now open until Saturday 19 March in the Piazza Shopping Centre.

You can watch the podcast here:

This podcast was commissioned by Architecture and Design Scotland on behalf of the Scotland+Venice Partnership, as part of the What If…?/Scotland and Future Paisley exhibition programmes, and produced by Erskine Arts.


What If….?/Scotland exhibition

The What If….?/Scotland exhibition was produced by award-winning Edinburgh-based architecture and design practice 7N Architects, in partnership with Architecture & Design Scotland, and seeks to re-engage the civic role of design professionals by asking communities from across Scotland to share their hopes and dreams for the future of the places they call home.

Originally designed to be staged in Venice as part of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, the exhibition responds to the Biennale’s theme How will we live together?.

At the start of 2020, prior to the first national lockdown, 7N paired 25 people from five places –Paisley, Wester Hailes in Edinburgh, Annan, Elgin and Lerwick – with 25 designers, architects, and artists, to share their hopes, dreams or wishes for the future of their place.

The architects and designers then used these wishes to begin exploring ideas in response to the community challenges being faced. As we emerge from the pandemic, the notion of people in Scotland’s communities coming together to plan for a better future has never been more important.

This collaborative process has been captured in a series of short films by Bash Art Creative. In this short film five citizens of Paisley (Linzi Clark, Johannes Gonani, Alison Love, Gillian Steel, Dr Valerie Wright) come together with five designers (Ffion Roberts, 7N Architects, Graeme Nicholls, Graeme Nicholls Architects, Ian Alexander and Henry McKeown, JM Architects, Gerry Grams, Threesixty Architecture, Anne Duff and Cathy Houston, Voices of Experience) to share their hope, wish or dream for their place.

You can watch the short film here:

Panels from the What if…?/Scotland – Paisley exhibition are on display as part of the Future Paisley exhibition.

A Gathering Thread is a temporary art installation, residency, and performance in the heart of Paisley High Street.

A vacant shop unit, unoccupied for over 3 years, has been re-painted and transformed into a textiles workshop. Over the course of June and July 2021, Alis Le May will be in residence in the window of the shop, slowly creating a hand-sewn garment, utilising vintage Coats thread spun in Paisley.

A garment will gradually form on the mannequin, and regular visitors to the High Street will be able to watch the progress of the piece from week to week.

The garment will also incorporate real pressed flowers, gathered from the local environment.

Visitors will be able to follow the progress of the piece on Facebook and Instagram.


Visit A Gathering Thread at:
25 High Street

It's really nice to be making something on a High Street. I think people have been interested to see what I'm doing and to see someone working with their hands.

Alis Le May
Alis is a designer and artist based in the East of Glasgow. Her projects make use of vintage/sustainable textiles and traditional hand-sewing techniques.

Sma’ Shot Cottages volunteer and Dress and Textile Historian Lucy McConnell discusses the Old Paisley Society’s recent collaboration with Vevar to produce the Sma’ Shot Scarf.

“…keep an eye on Paisley.”

Disraeli, B., 1880, Endymion, p.322, ch.64

Vevar, an old Scots spelling of weaver, is Glasgow’s newest weaving mill, established by award winning designers Chantal Allen and Christopher McEvoy in 2020. With over 20 years’ experience of design and manufacture between them, it was an exciting prospect for all at the Sma’ Shot Cottages to collaborate with such innovative and exciting designers and craftspeople.

Christopher employs the history of Scottish textiles within his work, drawing on his familial connection with the textile industries in Paisley and The Calton, historic influences which have seen Christopher produce pieces for fashion houses including Alexander McQueen and Charles Jeffery’s Loverboy. Working as a teacher and weave technician at the Glasgow School of Art, Chantal’s innovative and colourful designs have enabled her to travel to India, where she designed and developed Jacquard woven fabrics for the European and American markets.

The Old Paisley Society were approached by Chantal and Christopher last year, with their idea of producing a limited edition, hand-woven scarf inspired by the collections of the Sma’ Shot Cottages which would be sold to raise funds to aid our work in preserving Paisley’s textile past.

The Sma’ Shot Cottages were opened by the Old Paisley Society in 1985. Volunteer owned and run, the Cottages’ complex explores two distinct periods in Paisley’s textile past, through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The original Paisley weaver’s cottage, built in the 1750s on Shuttle Street, was first occupied by weaver David Lawson and his family. Shuttle street was populated, almost solely, by those involved in the textile trades through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Initially built to house weavers and their loom shops, Shuttle Street soon came to accommodate winders, sewers, pattern setters, washers, starchers, silk finishers and even a shoemaker.

In working with Vevar to create a unique scarf celebrating the textiles of Paisley, Chantal and Christopher were able to visit the Cottages, immersing themselves in the history of the Paisley weaver. The collections of the Cottages are vast, and would prove to offer immeasurable design inspiration. Artefacts including original nineteenth century Paisley shawls and quilts made up of nineteenth century fabrics including Turkey Red were used to inform the design of the Sma’ Shot Scarf, and can be seen in the inclusion of Paisley pines in a distinct madder red making up the scarf’s border.

Both Chantal and Christopher have won several awards for their work, and have established their own brands, named Warped Textiles and McEvoy Textiles. Through Vevar, Chantal and Christopher’s shared passion for Scottish textiles is proving to celebrate the history of textiles in Scotland while also preserving the craft of weaving for future generations.


Lucy McConnell

Dress and Textile Historian
PhD Candidate, University of Huddersfield

MLitt  BA(Hons)  QAVS

In the latest in our series of Mill Mag x 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 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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