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Father of American Ornithology is honoured by his home town Paisley

ONE of Paisley’s famous sons who became known as the Father of American Ornithology has been honoured by his home town.

David Clugston, Honorary Librarian for the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club and Morag Macpherson, Renfrewshire Leisure’s Head of Cultural Services at the unveiling of Alexander Wilson plaque.

A commemorative plaque paying tribute to the life of Alexander Wilson – poet, artist, scientist, explorer and social commentator – was unveiled at Paisley Arts Centre.

And ironically, the Arts centre wall where the plaque is mounted is part of the former Laigh Kirk Church, where Wilson was baptised in 1766 by Rev John Witherspoon, signatory of the American Declaration of Independence.

Wilson rose to fame after he emigrated to America in 1794 and travelled 10,000 miles on foot across that country with the pioneering ambition of observing birds in their natural habitats, scrutinising behaviour, posture and habits and classifying the different species.

This culminated in the publication of nine volumes of the book American Ornithology featuring Wilson’s drawings, paintings and descriptions of more than 260 species of birds – with 25 species previously unknown – in North America.

By the time Wilson died of dysentery in 1813, seven volumes of American Ornithology had been published with the final two volumes produced posthumously.

Five species of bird have been named after Wilson – Wilson’s Storm-petrel; Wilson’s Plover; Wilson’s Snipe, Wilson’s Phalarope and Wilson’s Warbler.

This amazing feat of Wilson’s, which took six years to complete and earned him credit for establishing ornithology as a science in America, was a far cry from his early years in Paisley.

He left school at the age of ten after his mother died and started work, first as a cow herder and then as an apprentice weaver.

Wilson became a poet and was a contemporary of Robert Burns and like many weavers became well read and a radical on social issues.

Alexander Wilson portrait.

But he fell foul of the law over a satirical account of a local mill owner and was imprisoned as he faced charges of libel and blackmail. But after a second run-in with the law over the distribution of radical propaganda, Wilson decided to emigrate.

The Historic Environment Scotland commemorative plaque was unveiled by David Clugston, Honorary Librarian for the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club.

Morag Macpherson, Renfrewshire Leisure’s Head of Cultural Services said: “The countryside around Paisley became Alexander Wilson’s playground in his early years and that exposure to the world of nature would have a profound effect on his later life.

“Soon after he arrived in America, Wilson developed a passion for the study of birds and his truly scientific approach to ornithology made him a pioneer.
“This Commemorative Plaque Scheme celebrates the lives of people who have made a significant difference to Scotland and its people.
“Paisley’s own Alexander Wilson certainly merits this honour.”

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Arts centre’s 30th anniversary celebrations – and all that jazz!

THEY just can’t stop the music at Paisley Arts Centre.  As part of Paisley Arts Centre’s 30th anniversary celebrations, free jazz music gigs are being staged in the café bar after three shows in the main auditorium.

jazz singer Evelyn Laurie who will be doing a series of free gigs at Paisley Arts Centre cafe-bar

Jazz singer, Evelyn Laurie will perform along with guitarist, Frank Bolam from 9.30pm until 11pm after concerts by Breabach, on Saturday, March 4; Fraser John Lindsay’s Blues Incentive, on Friday, March 31 and Ken Mathieson’s Classic Jazz Orchestra, on Friday, April 21.

A series of events is being planned to mark the Arts Centre’s 30th anniversary. As part of marking the occasion, Renfrewshire Leisure – which runs the venue – are asking people to send them their memories and experiences of the Arts Centre over the years.

People should email PAC30@renfrewshire.gov.uk with stories they’d like to share.

Chief executive of Renfrewshire Leisure, Joyce McKellar said: “Paisley Arts Centre does exactly what is says on the tin – it’s the centre of much of the arts and culture that’s been going on in Paisley for the past 30 years.
“It’s only right that in the year Paisley is bidding to be City of Culture 2021 we should celebrate a venue that’s played an important part in the culture of our town.
“Having a jazz singer perform following some of the music events in the main auditorium gives people added value and extends their enjoyment from their visit to Paisley Arts Centre.”

To book tickets for Breabach, Fraser John Lindsay’s Blues Incentive and Ken Mathieson’s Classic Jazz Orchestra performances, at Paisley Arts Centre, log on to or www.renfrewshireleisure.com/arts   or call 0300 300 1210.

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Take a selfie in Dracula’s coffin!

HALLOWEEN horror fans are being given the chance to take a selfie as they lie in a coffin at an ancient graveyard.

That’s the spooky experience on offer at Paisley Arts Centre as part of a Halloween Graveyard Tour, on Friday, October 28, as dusk falls at 5.30pm.

Graveyard tour guide Emma Armstrong gets a fright as she stumbles on Dracula and his coffin in the ground of Paisley Arts Centre

Graveyard tour guide Emma Armstrong gets a fright as she stumbles on Dracula and his coffin in the ground of Paisley Arts Centre

The arts centre is in the converted Laigh Kirk – which was the second oldest church in Paisley when it opened in 1738 and had almost 70 graves in the church grounds.

Dracula gets ready to welcome visitors to the Paisley Arts Centre Halloween Graveyard Tour

Dracula gets ready to welcome visitors to the Paisley Arts Centre Halloween Graveyard Tour

Paisley Arts Centre, in the town’s Witherspoon Street, opened in 1987 and visitors are intrigued by the unusual mort graves that look like table-tops they see close to the entrance.

The centre is now a popular venue with a diverse range of drama, dance, comedy, jazz, popular music and family events throughout the year.

In the run-up to Halloween, the grounds are being transformed into a pumpkin patch for the free graveside tour with pumpkin soup and Halloween cupcakes on sale in the arts centre café.

And of course, the fang-tastic opportunity to pretend you are Dracula and rise out of the coffin, which will be placed among the gravestones.

The arts centre is run by Renfrewshire Leisure and its chief executive, Joyce McKellar said:
“We’re having a really spook-tacular event at Paisley Arts Centre in the run-up to Halloween this year and the Graveyard Tour will not only be educational, but fun as well.
“The grounds of the former Laigh Kirk can feel eerie, especially as darkness begins to fall – and that’s when we’ll be having the graveyard tour.
“It might even get a wee bit scary if visitors stumble on people lying in a coffin taking selfies!”

Contact Paisley Arts Centre on 0300 300 1210 for more information about the Halloween Graveyard Tour.

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Invisible Army interview

Invisible Army is a new play by Victoria Beesley (My Friend Selma) which has been created in collaboration with young carers from the Glasgow South West Carers Centre.
Combining storytelling with movement and original live music, Invisible Army is a funny, moving, imaginative and charming insight into the life of a young carer.

Peter Greenwood from Paisley.org.uk interviews Invisible Army at Paisley Arts Centre.

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Lady MacBeth: unsex me here tour at Paisley Arts Centre

Company Chordelia is delighted to announce the dates of its premiere performances and tour of the company’s new dance theatre show Lady MacBeth: unsex me here.

young beautiful modern style dancer posing on a studio background

young beautiful modern style dancer posing on a studio background

This exciting and unique piece of dance theatre is created and directed by award winning company Artistic Director Kally Lloyd-Jones and presented in co-production with Solar Bear.

Marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Lady Macbeth: unsex me here explores one of Shakespeare’s most complex women. Ambition, power, guilt, remorse, loss, death. Paralleling Shakespeare’s time, a cast of three male dancers all play Lady Macbeth, exploring the relationship between masculinity and femininity.

Using Shakespeare’s language as the source, British Sign Language is used to create choreography, producing a piece of visceral dance & movement theatre which will reach D/deaf and hearing audiences alike, in different ways

The show will appear at Paisley Arts Centre on Saturday 5 November at 7.30 pm.

£10 / £6 + booking fee

0300 300 1210


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Where the Crow Flies – New Play at Paisley Arts Centre

Paisley Arts Centre will be hosting a new play as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival this month.  Where the Crow Flies is a thought-provoking play by In Motion theatre company and will be performed at Paisley Arts Centre on Wednesday 26 October.

Ostracised by the community she lives in, Carrie feels isolated from the world. Her husband is in prison for a crime he says he didn’t commit and her baby son won’t stop crying. Feeling alone and with no-where to turn Carrie has little interaction with anyone until a new neighbour moves in next door. But is the incomer all that she seems?

Researched in the community of Blackburn, West Lothian with local women, Where the Crow Flies is a play about starting over, gaining trust, building friendships and trying to get rid of the labels that are put upon us.

Where the Crow Flies has been commissioned by Sense over Sectarianism in association with the Scottish Government, and is part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival 2016 programme.

Tickets for Where the Crow Flies are £10 (£6 conc) + bkg fee* and available from the Box Office on 0300 300 1210 or online at renfrewshireleisure.com/arts. There will be a short monologue performance from the Scottish Network of Family Support Groups before the show.

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Spree for All fringe festival will be magic

Families should get set for some ‘absolutely magic’ free entertainment with the announcement of a magic trail as part of this month’s Spree for All.

Magician Tommy Templar with staff from Cardosi's espresso bar

MagicianTrail.jpg – Magician Tommy Templar with staff from Cardosi’s espresso bar

The Spree for All fringe festival will see events taking place across the town to co-incide with The Spree, Paisley’s National Festival which runs from 14-22 October and celebrates its fifth birthday this year.

Magicians Tommy Templar and Stevo with staff from Cardosi's espress bar and Ta Ta Bella's tearoom and Andrew Mitchell from Paisley First

Magicians Tommy Templar and Stevo with staff from Cardosi’s espress bar and Ta Ta Bella’s tearoom and Andrew Mitchell from Paisley First

As part of the entertainment on offer, a magic trail across shops and cafes will take place on Saturday 15 October (11am – 3pm) and Friday 21 October (11am – 3pm).

Magicians Tommy Templar and Stevo of Paisley Magic Circle popped into Cardosi’s espresso bar on Paisley High Street this week to amaze staff with some magic tricks.

The Spree for All is being supported by local business development group Paisley First.

Andrew Mitchell, Business Development Manager for Paisley First, said: “We are delighted that Paisley First can support the Spree for All. It’s a great idea and will build on the existing success of The Spree to involve as many of our town centres businesses as possible in a celebration of arts, culture and entertainment.”

Gary Kerr of LNP Promotions, organisers of The Spree for All, added: “This is the first year we’ve tried to organise an event like this and the backing we are getting from local businesses shows the real community spirit we have here in Paisley.

“We think the trail will be absolutely magic and, judging by the tricks that Tommy and Stevo have already shown us, anyone watching the magicians is guaranteed to be amazed!”

Details of the magic trail and other events taking place are available at www.thespree.co.uk/spreeforall and you can follow the fringe festival on Facebook at www.facebook.com/spreeforallpaisley. Businesses looking to take part in the festival can contact Gary Kerr or Tommy McGrory directly.

Acts appearing at The Spree festival include Admiral Fallow, Donnie Munro, Carol Laula, Treacherous Orchestra, Skerryvore, Craig Hill and Daniel Sloss.

Tickets can be purchased online from www.thespree.co.uk; from the Box Office on 0300 300 1210; or in person at Paisley Arts Centre or the InCube Shop at 9b Gilmour Street.

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Paisley Town Centre from the eye of a drone

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A Bench on the Road at Paisley Arts Centre 11 Oct

A Bench on the Road by Laura Pasetti.

‘We are all immigrants.’ Orchowski, Barack Obama, Pope Francis
Charioteer Theatre and Piccolo Teatro di Milano – Teatro d’Europa, present the world premiere of A Bench on the Road. Written and directed by Laura Pasetti, A Bench on the Road is a rich piece of musical and visual storytelling exploring women’s experiences of Italian-Scottish immigration in Scotland between 1850-1950.


Based on hundreds of true stories collected over 30 years of research, the play tells of Scottish and Italian women divided, yet united, in the battle for identity and belonging. Spanning a century of unprecedented radical change, the diverse experiences of the women from both cultures meet and intertwine.

Seven women will be on stage – six actresses and one accordionist – telling the story of the many women who emigrated from Italy in one hundred years of history. Ancient traditional songs, Scottish and Italian folk music, physical theatre and an interesting marriage of languages and dialects will give life to the stories of daughters, mothers, sisters… three generations of women embarking on the same journey in search of a new beginning. The result is a dialogue between acceptance and rejection, confrontation and collaboration.

Laura Pasetti has collaborated with Andrzej and Teresa Welminski, former actors of Tadeusz Kantor and experts of his techniques, to give strong relevance to the visual impact of the images on stage. Jen McGregor is Assistant Director, Lighting Design is by Manuel Frenda, Costumes by Simona Paci and Natalie Toyne is Vocal Coach.

A Bench on the Road started as a piece of research commissioned in 2013 by the University of Edinburgh under the Italian-Scottish Research Cluster project (ISRC) and resulted in this production based on the archival items held by the ISRC, including recorded interviews and other personal documents, regarding and involving women.

Laura Pasetti is the Artistic Director of Charioteer Theatre. After 20 years on the most prestigious stages as a lead actress in Italy and abroad Laura moved to Scotland where she founded Charioteer Theatre. She is director and playwright in residence at Piccolo Teatro di Milano and she has been collaborating with Accademia della Scala, Teatro Stabile di Torino, University of Washington, IES Abroad.

A Bench on the Road is supported by Creative Scotland and sponsored by Italian Cultural Institute of Edinburgh, Italian Chamber of Commerce, Italian Scotland, Paramount Creative and ifs Worldwide.

Paisley Arts Centre, Paisley
Tue 11 October, 7.30pm
£10 (£6) + booking fee


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Brand new Performance of Play The Course of True Love at Paisley Arts Centre

An everyday tale of caution, courage and Cleo Laine.
Celia and Oliver are in the world’s most expensive hotel, drunk on the world’s most expensive champagne. It’s not good. They have thirty minutes to make up their minds about a risky proposal that could tear their lives apart. A powerful politician waits downstairs for their decision. Will they retreat to the daily disillusionment of running a failing charity? Or will they find the courage to reveal their true feelings and speak truth to power?


The Course of True Love is a brand new performance from multi-award-winning writer and director David Leddy, who has been called a ‘maverick’ (The Guardian), a ‘genius’ (The Scotsman), an ‘innovator’ (The Times) and an ‘institution’ (The Independent).

A Play, A Pie and A Pint first presented this play as a production at Oran Mor, Glasgow and The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen.

“Gorgeous… witty… resonant” The Scotsman

“Poignant and insightful” The Times

Tickets for The Course of True Love are £10 (£6 conc ) + bkg fee* and are available at the Box Office on 0300 300 1210 orwww.renfrewshireleisure.com. Suitable for ages 16 +