New Chapter For Paisley

I used to hate Paisley. As a child, it was the scene of never-ending Saturday afternoons being dragged round the shops by my mum.

I warmed to it over the years though. As I got a bit older, I was allowed to get the bus to the town centre with my friends, unaccompanied by adults, and we felt very mature even though we just went to McDonalds and looked at the football boots in the sports shops in the Piazza and the Paisley Centre.


It was also where I went to one of my first football games with a couple of St Mirren-supporting uncles. They never managed to quite pass on the obsessive fandom they shared with the other Buddies but I still look out for their results every Saturday and I’m glad to see them at the top of the league this year.

I passed my driving test doing circuits of the town out of the test centre in Glenburn. And of course, as soon I was old enough to go to the pubs (or maybe just a bit before then), it was the destination of many memorable nights out.

One of my first jobs was for the local paper in Paisley and it was part of my role to project a bit of pride in the old place, which wasn’t difficult. There is no doubt it has a rich history and a certain beauty – the grand buildings like the Paisley Abbey and the Coats Observatory, the refashioned mill buildings looming over the flowing River Cart and scenic views over the town and beyond from the Gleniffer Braes.

But, if I’m honest, the visits to Paisley over recent years have become more and more infrequent. There doesn’t seem many reasons to go anymore. And every time brings a small ache of despondency at seeing its slow but noticeable decline.

The department shops I used to get dragged around as a child seem to be outnumbered by charity shops as people instead flock to the big supermarkets and shopping centres with their easy parking and shelter from the elements. St Mirren are now in competition with Manchester United and Barcelona for young football fan’s attention never mind Rangers and Celtic.

And while Paisley still has a lively nightlife, its not somewhere I would think to go these days. There seems much more choice elsewhere.

Yet maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to write the old town off. On Thursday, we find out if an extremely professional, hugely energetic and certainly deserving bid to be named the 2021 UK City of Culture is successful.

It has tapped into Paisley’s rich history, cultural hinterland and the community’s deep pride to mount a bid which could unlock much-needed investment, regeneration and ambition, just like we have seen in Hull, a recent winner of the same accolade.

We could be about to see a new chapter in Paisley's famous story.

Paisley once led the world in weaving and textiles, and powered the UK economy. On Thursday, it has the opportunity to once again become a place of renown, this time as a cultural hub.

I can't think of a more deserving place of this opportunity, a place I have known all my life. And if this project is successful, no one will have to be dragged to Paisley like I was as a kid.

Craig Davidson

Scotland in Union

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