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Paisley's bid to be UK City of Culture 2021 is now Scotland's bid

In this guest blog post, Jean Cameron, Paisley 2021 project director, explains how Paisley’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2021 is now Scotland’s bid....

Jean Cameron, Paisley 2021 project director

Many of you will have been watching with interest the incredible artistic spectacle currently taking place in Hull for their UK City of Culture year....and Paisley has just taken a huge step closer to being the next – and first Scottish – host of that title.

The benefits of winning will be nationwide, both in terms of visitors and economic impact, and in reinforcing the diversity and ambition of what Scotland’s cultural scene has to offer.- Jean Cameron, Paisley 2021

We were thrilled to this month be shortlisted for the 2021 title by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), alongside Coventry, Stoke on Trent, Sunderland and Swansea.

We will submit a second-stage bid in September, the judging panel visit Paisley in October, and the winner will be announced at the end of the year.

With Perth out of the race, we are now the only Scottish bidder – and our best wishes go to our friends in the Fair City, who we know will build on their experience of bidding as part of their impressive plans to enhance their existing rich cultural offering.

Paisley’s bid is part of a wider push to transform the town’s future through creative-led regeneration.

Paisley 2021

We will do that by finding our voice again to tell our unique story as a textile town which changed the world.

That means tapping into the creative industry inherited from our weaver poets and cultural philanthropists to put Scotland's largest town firmly on the map again as a place recognised for its local talent, enterprise and innovation.

My home town has already given me so much, and set me up for a career in the arts. So it means a lot to be giving something back as director of a project which is harnessing the power of culture and creativity to change lives for the better.

I head up a dedicated core bid team including fellow Paisley Buddie Steven Thomson as Creative Producer, known to many of you as the man behind the award-winning Glasgay arts festival.

Getting Paisley’s bid this far has been a true team effort – the bid is driven by a great group of partners, with local cultural, community, business and public sector groups working side by side with the cross-sectoral leadership that Glasgow School of Art, Creative Renfrewshire Network, University of West of Scotland, West College Scotland and Young Scot bring to our partnership board.

We have been fortunate to have input from Creative Scotland, represented by [Director of Strategy] Philip Deverell, since we established the board in 2015.  

Paisley’s bid is now Scotland’s bid and the benefits of winning will be nationwide, both in terms of visitors and economic impact, and in reinforcing the diversity and ambition of what Scotland’s cultural scene has to offer.

We are keen to collaborate with you and together show DCMS Paisley is ready to host a year of bold, imaginative world-class culture in 2021.

We are already working with Creative Scotland on developing a Place Partnership for Renfrewshire, and are keen to explore the potential of where Paisley 2021 can make a strong contribution to the Cultural Strategy for Scotland, currently in development

One example of what we are already doing is the Renfrewshire Culture, Heritage and Events Fund (CHEF) – created to build capacity among the local creative scene alongside the 2021 bid, and to increase the opportunities for established arts practitioners to work in Renfrewshire.

CHEF is now developing Paisley’s creative scene and taking our artists to new audiences.

That includes teenage Lego film-maker Morgan Spence – whose witty stop-motion animation about the town has now been seen by millions, including Paisley’s very own Hollywood star Gerard Butler, who tweeted his approval.

There’s also the ceramic artist Karen Hanvidge – who from her garage studio created the bespoke awards for the 2016 Scottish Album of the Year ceremony, hosted in Paisley, and is now running funded workshops to pass her skills on to adults and children.

The Culture, Heritage and Events Fund is also allowing us to bring organisations of national stature to the area to work with and develop our local talent.

That includes Scotland youth dance agency YDance, who worked with pupils in eight of our primary schools on original choreography inspired by Renfrewshire architecture and landmarks such as Paisley Abbey and Erskine Bridge.

I was delighted Creative Scotland’s chief executive Janet Archer came to the end-of-project performance and even joined in with the young dancers on stage during the finale!

 Look Up, Look Under, Look Out in Paisley

And later this year we will welcome internationally-acclaimed producers Cryptic and Serious to run a professional music residency in Paisley, bringing our local talent together with the best from around the UK.

Paisley has form in nurturing its artists to make meaningful work at home and further afield - a glance at the star-studded alumni of our very own PACE Youth Theatre Group, one of the UK’s largest independent youth theatres, shows that.

Making the UK City of Culture shortlist gives Paisley a bigger platform than ever before to show what we offer Scotland, the UK and the world.

We are known as Buddies for a reason – a friendly welcome is guaranteed. And if we win, our 2021 year will be a party to which you are all invited.

With our rich heritage, distinct creative scene, historically significant venues and excellent transport links, Paisley can be the perfect stage to show off the very best of Scotland’s talent to the world.

For more information, visit paisley2021.co.uk