Guest blog: How #PositivePaisley helped spread the love around the world
Evelyn Laurie is our latest guest blogger. Here, she tells how her #postivepaisley campaign got people talking about Paisley and its creative talent.
I grew up in Paisley in the 1960’s and ‘70s. It was quite a different town then with so much local employment, a bustling High St, bars and restaurants – you really didn’t need to go out of town for much. In fact, a trip to Glasgow was a big day out!
After Camphill High School, I worked in a bank for a couple of years then studied Social Studies at Paisley College of Technology (now University of West of Scotland). The College owned lots of flats around the campus, which were rented at low cost to students and the Union was a great hub for entertainment. This created a vibrant community as we’d congregate in the flats for parties, with people playing guitar and singing. My group of friends developed this to the stage where we’d have ‘cabaret parties’ with music, comedy, recitals - even gymnastics (although this was often a bit dangerous!).
After College, I moved away for work and further study, only coming back occasionally to visit my folks and I gradually lost contact with the town.
Around 7 years ago, having lived in various parts of Scotland, including 20 years in Glasgow, we moved to Howwood and I reconnected with Paisley. I may have had the ‘rosy tinted specs’ of the ex-patriot, colouring my view of the town with fond memories of how it had been, but it was clear there had been many negative changes since my day and a distinct air of despair among people living and working here.
In May 2011, I came out of a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Paisley Abbey (to my shame, first time I’d been inside!). The sun was shining and it all looked so lovely. Having just learned to use Twitter, I tweeted "Paisley in the sunshine looks great - all those lovely buildings especially around the river - when were you last there? #PositivePaisley". To my surprise - and delight – several people Retweeted this so I made it my hobby to tweet more positive statement about the town – all with the hashtag #PositivePaisley. As more people joined in, it became clear there was a lot of love for the town (and also a lot of misrepresentation about it) locally and afar.
I joined forces with Brian McGuire of Paisley.org and together we created “Positive Paisley” day in October of both 2011 and 2012, when we turned Twitter and Facebook “Paisley patterned” and the hashtag, #PositivePaisley, trended in 80 countries. All sort of people got involved - businesses, residents, students, ex-patriots, politicians, celebrities -highlighting the things people love about the town, its heritage and history, its buildings, the huge amount of creative talent it has produced. I like to think this campaign helped a little in influencing the Council to develop its culture-led regeneration strategy.
It is because of all the creative talent Paisley has produced that I called it “a town of artists” in the recent Paisley Daily Express #WhyIIovePaisley campaign, that was also featured on the side of the Russell Institute.
I’m pleased that the bid to be UK City of Culture is offering home-grown artists, across every genre, a platform to become more confident and dream bigger. It’s time Paisley stepped up to take its place on an international stage: no more hiding our light!!
As a jazz singer and writer, I’m getting more involved personally, with a number of “Jazz Cafe” gigs in March and April in Paisley Arts Centre. I’m also offering my 20+ years of experience as a marketing consultant and coach to help local creatives boost their confidence, raise their profiles and increase their own success.
And finally… I said I’d come back to live in Paisley when I felt it had enough to offer me in terms of cultural activity: nice places to eat, a variety of entertainment and leisure opportunities. I’m pleased to say we moved back in August.
Find out how you can get involved in the discussion here.