Buddies always remained proud of each other and are bound by a desire to see Paisley bounce back.
I am delighted to support Paisley’s bid to become the UK City of Culture 2021. I was born in Paisley and spent my early years in Seedhill before my parents moved two miles up the road to Renfrew when I started school. However, Paisley remained home to almost all of my family and it was also where my own social and sporting life, from my teenage years right up until the present day, took place. It is for those reasons, alongside the pride of being one of it’s representatives in parliament, why I’m grateful for the opportunity to highlight why Paisley’s case to become City of Culture is so much stronger than our competitors.
However, before all of that I have to make an admission. Until these last few years if you had asked me about Paisley bidding for a city of culture title I would have laughed in your face. It’s not that I wasn’t hugely proud of Paisley - I was – and I was very proud to represent Paisley across Scotland as captain of Paisley Rugby Club. Rather, I think it’s because we buddies had become so used to talking it down for years that we couldn’t see what was in front of us. We couldn’t see, and we probably hadn’t been made aware, that Paisley has the highest concentration of listed buildings anywhere in Scotland outside Edinburgh. It’s true the town centre, like almost everywhere else, started a long slow decline during my childhood and has struggled to compete with out of town shopping or to find a different solution to bring folk back in to the town centre ever since. In addition, Paisley and the surrounding area, while supporting many affluent areas, also plays host to many areas of deprivation, including Ferguslie Park – which has once again been ranked as Scotland’s most deprived. With this set of circumstances it’s not hard to see why some Paisley buddies struggled to feel a sense pride given the reputation of the town. Despite all of this I think that throughout the lean times Buddies always remained proud of each other and are bound by a desire to see Paisley bounce back.
And bounce back we will because the truth is that Paisley has a lot to offer to the world. For many it has taken this bid to remember what a special place Paisley is.
We have a long and rich history and, as I said during my debate in Westminster, it is clear that Paisley’s cultural contribution to the world vastly disproportionate to our size. The town has influenced culture in several ways through our mills that have shaped the world of fashion on to the numerous Hollywood stars and musicians that hail from Paisley.
We’re the birth place of music superstar’s Paulo Nutini and Gerry Rafferty, Dr Who duo, David Tennant and Steven Moffat; film and TV stars Gerard Butler, Richard Madden and Tom Conti; and other cultural figures including John Byrne, Alexander Goudie, Sandy Stoddart, Chris Brookmyre and Robert Tannahill. It is beyond any doubt whatever that Paisley punches well above its weight and Paisley is proud of its sons and daughters who have made their mark on the world stage.
The town is also home to David Wallace’s hugely successful PACE Youth theatre, the most successful of it’s kind in the UK. Places at PACE are sought after and stars such as James McAvoy and James McArdle of Star Wars were both enrolled there. I should say that PACE stole the show at the Paisley2021 Westminster reception with members and members of staff complimenting them for days after the event and I thank them for the way they have thrown themselves into the bid.
Securing the title of UK City of Culture is an opportunity to celebrate the town’s great history and cultural achievements, but more than that, it will give us a transformational opportunity to regenerate our communities and allow us to take coordinated action against poverty. It will bring visitors, jobs, economic growth and will create new confidence in people. It will give us a chance to be part of something special and transform Paisley’s image nationally. For that reason, I believe this title means so much more to the town than those of other competitors bidding for it.
Perth, Sunderland et al better take note, and yes I’m talking to you Pete Wishart (Perth MP), Paisley is up for this and ready to seize the opportunity to shape a new, positive future for the town.
Disraeli was wrong - you need to keep both eyes on Paisley!