Paisley-born Karen Campbell is the author of six novels. Here, she discusses why she wants people to "see the light" about Paisley.
Can you be a Buddy, yet never have lived in Paisley? Can you remain a Weegie when you’re now a Gallovidian? Identity – as Scotland knows only too well, is a shifting, layered creation. But one thing’s for sure – Paisley is the very first place on earth I gulped the air, or saw the light.
As a Glasgow sou’sider, my expectant mum was sent to the Ross Hospital, and it was there I made my entrance to the world. Long since gone, I believe the Ross was part of the old Hawkhead Estate, and my mum says she remembers it looked onto both a psychiatric hospital and a cemetery. We stayed there four nights; her watchful, me content – a Paisley Buddy from the outset.
Living in Glasgow, Paisley was always there, on the periphery, and it kept winding itself back into my life. Clarkston punks were few and far between, and so it was that the spiky-haired of Williamwood High teamed up with the spiky-haired of St Mirin St Margaret’s after school, breaking down religious and geographic barriers to exchange tips on the best way to backcomb. We’d commute between Clarkston and Paisley, building friendships and romance, and every time I walked past the splendid, soaring Anchor Mill, a wee bit of me would think: ‘I’m a Buddy.’
Years later, when I had kids of my own, I spent five years of Saturdays pounding Paisley’s pavements, while my daughter enjoyed herself at PACE. Having that time to explore the place of my birth was a delight.
Wandering down cobbled wynds, up hidden stairs, going inside the wonderful green-roofed abbey and finding the tomb of Marjorie Bruce – what a revelation. Paisley is so rich with history – and I started wondering – why do we not shout about this place more? Why don’t we tell Paisley’s story to the world?
And now I’m a writer, living in Galloway, I do get to tell stories. In the book I’m currently writing, I have a Scots-Italian family, facing WW2 in Tuscany. But here’s a wee clue as to where their hearts might lie:
He only thought the rest, the bit where he took her in his arms and she told him that she loved him and they were walking up School Wynd, past the three churches and they were choosing which wee stone house they would live in, high on the hill, with all of Paisley laid out below. When he looked again, it was Barga below; a shimmery heat-haze which swam like the sea, and them, walking down the hill towards a town filling-up with Germans.
I hope everybody will see the light about Paisley. And I wish your bid for City of Culture every success.