Ambitious £42m plans to transform Paisley Museum into an international-class destination have pulled off a major coup, with the appointment of AL_A – the award-winning architects behind some of the world’s most striking buildings.

The firm’s founder Amanda Levete – a former winner of UK architecture’s top honour, the RIBA Stirling Prize – says the Paisley Museum project is ‘one of the most radical briefs she has read’.

It will be the first Scottish commission for the London-based practice, who have designed landmark projects including the Victoria & Albert Museum Exhibition Road Quarter – for which they this week won the prestigious RIBA London Building of the Year 2018.

They were also this month shortlisted for the competition to redesign the visitor experience at Paris’s iconic Eiffel Tower.

The Paisley Museum transformation is the flagship project in Renfrewshire Council’s planned £100m investment in cultural venues and infrastructure – key to Paisley’s UK City of Culture 2021 bid legacy, and the wider plans to use the town’s unique assets to transform its future.

The museum will close this autumn and re-open in 2022 as a revitalised home for Paisley’s internationally-significant textile heritage and outstanding natural history, art and science collections, expected to nearly quadruple current visitor numbers to 125,000 a year.

The project will include a contemporary addition to the existing Victorian-era building, creating a new entrance and museum spaces – including a cafe and shop – landscaping and significantly-improved access.

There will be major revamps to all four museum buildings including the Coats Observatory, while a complete internal redesign will reimagine the visitor experience and double the number of objects on public display.

Current AL_A projects include the revitalisation of the historic Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris; a new centre for the cancer care charity Maggie’s in Southampton; and two new buildings for Wadham College at the University of Oxford. Completed projects include Central Embassy, a 1.5m sq ft luxury shopping mall and hotel in Bangkok, and Sky TV’s new London media campus.

Levete was recently named the winner of the 2018 Jane Drew Prize, an annual lifetime achievement award for an architect who has furthered the progress of women in the industry.

She said: ““This is one of the most radical briefs I have read – it triggered in us a desire to tell the untold history of Paisley and search for a narrative thread that will drive the design. The project is bigger than the building itself and I am excited to re-imagine the relationship between the street and museum.

“This is not only about finding the way to best show the museum’s collection, it’s also about showing the world how an ambitious cultural project can have a profound impact on a community and its identity.”

Cllr Lisa-Marie Hughes, chair of Renfrewshire Leisure – which operates the museum – added: “For Paisley to have attracted a design team of such global reputation to come to Scotland for the first time shows we are being noticed around the UK and abroad.

“Being the first ever town on a UK City of Culture shortlist took our profile to new levels – but this appointment also says a lot about the scale and ambition of the museum project, and the worldwide importance of Paisley’s heritage and collections.

“The museum was gifted to the people of Paisley more than a century ago by Peter Coats, at the time his family were building a global thread empire headquartered right here.

“Now, AL_A will honour that legacy by designing a striking 21st-century facility to open up our unique heritage to future generations and be a valuable educational resource for our young people.

“At the same time, the new museum will be the centrepiece of the work to transform the area’s fortunes by using our unique selling points to make us a destination and drive huge volumes of new footfall into the town centre.”

AL_A were among more than 120 firms to tender for the Paisley Museum project and will lead an Anglo-Scottish multi-disciplinary design team including conservation consultants Giles Quarme and Associates, landscape architects GROSS.MAX, and engineers Arup.

They will also provide a wide range of benefits to the Renfrewshire community, including further education and school visits, work experience placements and careers events.

The £100m investment in Paisley town centre over the next four years also includes projects to transform Paisley Town Hall and Arts Centre into 21st-century venues, a new learning and cultural hub on the High Street, major investment in outdoor spaces and the town’s transport links, and new sporting facilities and events space at St James Playing Fields.

The plans build on the investment already made in the publicly-accessible museum store Paisley: The Secret Collection, opened last year on the town’s High Street, and the launch of the new destination brand and website at www.paisley.is

The museum project is also being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund.

Renfrewshire councillors have refused a planning application from a developer to demolish the iconic Half Time School in Paisley, which was due to be replaced by 40 flats.
The School opened in 1887 to provide education to children who worked in Ferguslie Mills, this building is a key link to Paisley’s former mill town past.  However, once the mills had gone it was later used as a nightclub but suffered damage from a fire in 1998 and has seen further deterioration of the building over the following years.
There have been a few applications to build on that site over the years and retain some of the building but the plans have not got passed the Council planning department.
Councillor John McNaughtan – seconded by Councillor Kenny MacLaren – moved against the council officers recommendations to demolish the building and found widespread support among all councillors in the council’s Communities, Housing and Planning Policy Board.  Councillor McNaughtan highlighted the importance of protecting Paisley’s architectural and social history and also called for the council to use its full powers to protect not just the Half Time School but also all historic buildings within Paisley and Renfrewshire.
Councillor Kenny MacLaren, SNP – Paisley Northwest, said: “I was happy to second Cllr McNaughtan in his opposition to the demolition of this iconic building.
“We have to look at how the council can use all its powers to protect and preserve such buildings across Paisley and Renfrewshire.”
Thanks to Ricky Kelly of Renfrewshire News 24 for this article.

Photography fans are being encouraged to share their favourite snaps of Paisley’s unique architecture for a Story Map that tells the story of the town through its rich built heritage.

The Story Map will capture a visual record of historic properties within Paisley Town Centre Conservation Area. Pupils and community groups are being asked to share their photos, memories and comments on buildings in the town they either have links with or simply admire and have a chance to have them added to the Story Map. The map will also share knowledge about local heritage.

The Story Map will go on to be used as a public online resource where people can view and continue to contribute to the story capturing the town’s built environment as time goes on.

Local primary school pupils and community groups will attend the Story Map launch on Friday 16 March in the UWS atrium, and bring along a digital copy of their image and a comment to accompany it in order to contribute to the map.

The event will also launch a new photography competition which will first be trialled with the groups who attend on the day.

Two winners will be announced (under 16 year-olds and over 16 year-olds) at the event and the winning photographs will be printed on banners displayed around Paisley Town Centre promoting the TH.CARS2 project. Following the event the competition will then be opened up to the general public to enter. All details about the competition can be found on the TH.CARS2 website.

Renfrewshire Council Leader, Cllr Iain Nicolson, said: “Paisley is home to some beautiful buildings and boasts the second highest concentration of listed buildings in Scotland and it’s great to celebrate this.

“People living in and around Paisley are uniquely able to see our most iconic buildings in a new way as well as highlight some of our hidden gems. By contributing to the Story Map people can share their own stories of why these stunning buildings matter to the town.”

This forms a key part of the Paisley Townscape Heritage and Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme 2 (TH.CARS2) which is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Environment Scotland and Renfrewshire Council and will deliver grant opportunities to property owners in a defined area of the town centre for high quality building repairs and shopfront improvements.

To find out more about the TH.CARS2 project please visit www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/THCars2 or to find out more about the Story Map please visit:www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/THcars2StoryMap.

Plans to use the momentum of Paisley’s UK City of Culture 2021 bid to help drive a long-term cultural, social and economic transformation of the area are to go before councillors next week.

Renfrewshire Council and its partners have been planning how the town’s bid journey will continue, by building on the positive platform the bid created, and the widespread community support that drove Paisley’s campaign.

Paisley was the only Scottish place and first-ever town to make the shortlist for the prestigious competition, run by the UK Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Feedback from DCMS says Paisley was viewed as ‘a very strong contender’ and the decision to shortlist the bid was ‘an easy one’, while praising the town’s passion and commitment to using culture to tackle social problems, and describing the Paisley bid’s community engagement as ‘exemplary’.

The Paisley 2021 Partnership Board – set up to oversee the bid and bringing together business, cultural, educational, community, health and political representatives – has already confirmed it will continue and will deliver and drive a legacy plan, with some partners intending to maintain their original financial pledges.

That detailed legacy plan will be finalised by the Partnership Board in March – but a report outlining the key points of the local authority’s contribution towards the plan is now going before the council’s Leadership Board

It will continue the ambition to achieve the bid’s original long-term aims to significantly grow Paisley’s creative economy, transform its reputation, see the town recognised for its cultural excellence, lift communities out of poverty, and turn Paisley town centre into a vibrant destination.

And the council will continue to lead on delivering the following:

– the planned £100m-plus investment in venues and infrastructure, including the project under way to turn Paisley Museum into an international-class visitor destination, major internal revamps to transform Paisley Town Hall and Arts Centre, upgrading the sporting facilities at St James Playing Fields and creating new space for outdoor events and festivals, a new library on the High Street, and improvements to the town centre streetscape and road system;

– a new Paisley destination brand and website will also be unveiled in the next few weeks to build on the national and international profile created by the bid and promote the area as an attractive place to visit, live and invest;

– an enhanced cultural events and festivals programme over the next four years to deliver the best of what was planned for 2021, attract visitors to Paisley, and strengthen the local cultural sector;

Plans will also be developed to grow the area’s creative economy through a new apprenticeship programme, support for creative businesses and a new volunteer strategy.

Renfrewshire Council leader Iain Nicolson said: “We must do everything to build on the impact of bidding for UK City of Culture and the momentum it created.

“The campaign took the town’s profile to new levels – with hundreds of millions of people around the world getting the chance to see or hear something positive about Paisley – transformed our reputation, raised awareness of our unique story, and brought self-confidence back to the town.

“It also generated a town-wide discussion about Paisley’s future – with more than 36,000 people engaging with the bid by the time the final submission was made, and new partnerships and relationships developed locally and nationally which will continue to work in Paisley’s interest.

“And it also firmly established the idea that Paisley’s unique cultural and heritage assets can be used to transform its future – and not just in an economic sense, but also through social impact, by harnessing the power of culture to boost health and well-being, and help people out of poverty.

“We may not have won the title – but the important point is we are still going to deliver our vision and many of the aspirations that informed our bid.

“The report going to the leadership board offers an initial outline of those next steps, and as chair of the Paisley Partnership Board I look forward to revealing the detailed action plan with our partners.

“With major investment in our cultural venues, a new destination brand and website set to launch, an enhanced events and festivals programme in the years ahead, and new funding to support local artists and help the local cultural sector grow, there is lots ahead to be excited by.”

The council’s leadership board will meet on Wednesday 21 February.

They were remarkable women whose achievements were all too often overlooked by the history books.

Now the life and times of some of Renfrewshire’s exceptional ‘silent’ women from the Victorian and Edwardian eras will be explored in a new heritage project.

‘The Ladies A,B and C’ will investigate the contributions of Mrs Jane Arthur, Mrs Mary Barbour and three of the Mrs Coats from the famous textiles manufacturing family.

Their stories will be explored as a way of inspiring their modern day counterparts as part of a project with Social Historian Lil Brookes.

She is running a series of workshops with women from Paisley’s Disability Resource Centre.

The eight weeks project is supported by Renfrewshire Council’s Culture, Heritage and Events (CHE) Fund, and will also incorporate a tribute to the upcoming International Women’s Day on March 8.

The workshops are due to start in early February and Lil said: “The aim of the project is to raise awareness of the women’s often forgotten contribution to their community and how their stories are still relevant and interesting to women in the Paisley and Renfrewshire community today.

“A lot of the time when we talk about the famous Coats family you would never even know there were any Mrs Coats. They become silent people and don’t seem to have a voice.

“But Margaret Glen, the wife of Thomas Coats, set up the Paisley branch of the Ladies Sanitary Association, while Mrs Archibald Coats was interested in the work of the Scottish Girl’s Friendly Society. Following her death the Mrs Archibald Coats Memorial Hall was opened in Weighhouse Close. Bertha Coats was interested in many areas of welfare in the community but particularly with the wellbeing of children and she was recognised for this becoming  a Freewoman of Paisley.

“I started thinking about other women I would like to explore a little better, and one is Jane Arthur, the sister-in-law of Thomas Coats.”

The feminist and activist became the first Scottish woman to stand for a school board and was elected to the Paisley school board in 1873. She also became vice-president of the Paisley Ladies’ Sanitary Association, which promoted public baths.

Lil added: “She was a woman of privilege but seemed to use her position to have a voice. But today nobody talks about her so it’s maybe a case of giving her and the others a voice again after all these years.”

The project will also learn about Kilbarchan-born Mary Barbour, who was a key player in fighting rent increases imposed by Glasgow landlords during World War One.

In 2015 a stone cairn was erected in the village where she was born in 1875 to mark her achievements.

From the retold stories, themes relevant to women today like equality in the workplace, education, healthcare, housing issues, and sexual politics can be discussed and explored by the women taking part in the workshops.

For more information on the CHE Fund which is still accepting applications, please go to www.paisley2021.co.uk

Two designers are helping to continue Paisley’s rich textile story by delivering weaving workshops to school pupils.

Heather Shields and Shielagh Tacey have been appointed as weavers in residence to the Sma’ Shot Cottages as part of Renfrewshire Council’s Townscape Heritage Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme 2 (TH.CARS 2) which aims to celebrate Paisley’s rich built heritage.

As part of the residency Heather and Shielagh will be delivering a series of workshops every Tuesday throughout November to more than 240 pupils from St Fergus PS, Glencoats PS, Lochwinnoch PS, St Mary’s PS, West PS, St Catherine’s PS, Johnstone HS and St Columba’s HS in Paisley Museum.

During these sessions the pupils will learn about linen, silk and cotton – the fibres which were historically woven in Paisley, explore the Museum’s shawl gallery and watch a loom in action. They will also discover how a weaver creates a motif design using point paper and work collaboratively to weave part of a colourful large scale artwork using a range of hand weaving techniques.

The residency aims to encourage people to get involved in weaving in addition to conducting a research project into Paisley’s rich textile heritage. The ethos of this project ties with Paisley’s bid for UK City of Culture 2021.

The £4 million TH.CARS 2 project, which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Environment Scotland and Renfrewshire Council aims to make the area around the High Street a more attractive place to visit and invest while highlighting the significant role Paisley has played in the weaving and textile industry.

Commenting on the residency Heather said: “Paisley has such a rich heritage to explore and through this residency it would be a great chance to team up and learn more about a subject we are very interested in.

“This project will allow us to share our skills and knowledge with the local community and we are hoping that the school workshops will inspire young people in the town to consider opportunities in textiles and design.”

Renfrewshire Council Depute Leader, Cllr Jim Paterson, said: “The weaving workshops will not only help share the story of Paisley’s unique textile and design heritage that helped make it a globally recognised name, but will also help our young people build new skills and open them up to creative career opportunities.”

At the end of the project the weavers will deliver an exhibition and talk around the residency. The weaving residency will run until the end of 2018.

To find out more about TH.CARS 2 visit www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/THCars2.

Budding Lara Croft’s and Indiana Jones’ are being given the opportunity to take part in an archaeological dig to unearth a mysterious site next to the grounds of Paisley Abbey.

The Paisley “Wee Dig 2017” will take place between 18 and 24 September 2017. This significant heritage-led regeneration project will see a previously unexplored part of the Abbey Drain site excavated to shed light on what lies beneath alongside a programme of events to allow people to get involved. This ties in with ambitions set out in the town’s bid for UK City of Culture 2021.

The north west side of the building. Original source – black & white 3½” x 5½” photograph

As part of the week-long programme of events a series of interactive workshops will be held with a number of local groups and members of the public. These sessions will involve experiencing the dig itself, learning about various archaeological techniques and looking at artefacts from previous digs. Visuals of the Paisley Abbey Drain will be featured to allow visitors to see what is under the area of the dig site.

Renfrewshire Council has been awarded £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF) Stories, Stones and Bones programme as part of the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology to conduct a ‘Wee Dig’ of part of the Abbey Drain site.

The 12th century Abbey is renowned not only for its outstanding architecture but also as the cradle of the Royal House of Stewart as a number of the Stewarts were buried within its walls. It is also believed that Robert II, the first Stewart king of Scotland and the grandson of Robert the Bruce, was born within the walls of Paisley’s Abbey. The Abbey also has a fascinating underground history – the magnificent medieval Abbey Drain.

Community groups and members of the public will be able to participate in the Wee Dig on Friday 22 and Saturday 23 September with a programme of events, workshops and talks laid on between 10.30am – 3pm on each day. Consultant archaeologists Guard Archaeology Ltd will also be on hand to answer questions from members of the public.

School children from across Renfrewshire will also get the chance to be part of the Wee Dig. Pupils from Williamsburgh Primary School, East Fulton Primary School and Kilbarchan Primary School will attend separate workshop sessions on site earlier in the week.

Renfrewshire Council Depute Leader, Cllr Jim Paterson said: “The ‘Wee Dig 2017’ will help bring archaeology to life not only for the school children attending the workshops but also for members of the public who have an interest in learning more about their town.

“This project celebrates our unique heritage – one of the main themes of our Paisley Town Centre Action Plan 2016 – 2026 which aims to regenerate the town centre and create jobs.”

Commenting, Lucy Casot, Head of HLF in Scotland, said: “The Heritage Lottery Fund is a key partner in the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology and it’s our ambition that people of all ages will have the chance to discover something new about the heritage they care about. We’re delighted that, thanks to funding from the National Lottery, the wee Dig will be opening the door to fun, learning and everlasting memories for many people as we celebrate this special year.”

Consultant archaeologists Guard Archaeology Ltd will be supported all week by volunteers from the Renfrewshire Local History Forum.

hogmany-glencinema

Paisley Community Trust, a Registered Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation, have partnered with Paisley Development Trust to announce plans to include a new memorial garden on the proposed site for PCT’s Performing Arts and Film Theatre. The memorial garden will be dedicated to the 71 victims and their families of the 1929 Glen Cinema disaster in Paisley.

hogmany-glencinema

Following on from last week’s news that Paisley Community Trust’s preferred site for its proposed new Performing Arts Venue was the former Arnott’s car park, Paisley Community Trust wished to reveal some additional information on its intentions to transform the site into a new Cultural & Creative quarter for the town. As part of the extensive planning and designing undertaken by award winning Architects Stallan Brand, PCT wanted to ensure that Paisley’s history and heritage in film was remembered and included in the new transformational plans.

 

On the 31st December 1929, Paisley families were hit with tragedy when 71 lives, mostly children, were lost in the Glen Cinema Disaster. During a children’s matinee, a freshly shown film reel was put back in its metal canister, in the spool room, where it began to issue thick black smoke. There was no fire. The smoke filled the auditorium containing approximately one thousand children at the time. As panic set in, children fled the building to safety. However, the escape door to Dyers Wynd was padlocked and 71 children sadly died in the crush. It was the worst cinema disaster in British history.

 

Paisley Development Trust, the organisation behind several prominent regeneration projects in Paisley, including the successful transformation of The Russell Institute Building, hold an annual memorial each year at The Cenotaph, Paisley Cross to remember the dead of the Glen Cinema Disaster.

 

Whilst the Cenotaph was created to remember the town’s war dead, both Trusts have partnered to create something more fitting and significant in the town. It is also intended that the new memorial garden will feature a commissioned sculptural statue to embody the innocence of children and the hope and inspiration that the arts and film can provide to their futures. Once built, the annual Hogmanay Memorial will take place at this new location.

“We were approached by Paisley Community Trust to review their vision for a new Performing Arts and Film Theatre – we were amazed with what we saw. However, they wanted to share an idea they had to create something extra special for the town. When they told us they wanted to create a memorial garden and dedicate it to the children of the Glen we were delighted. It is such a beautiful and fitting way to create something in the town dedicated to the Glen. We are moved by the sensitive consideration Paisley Community Trust have shown in their plans.”

Marie Connelly, Trustee, Paisley Development Trust

 

“The Glen Cinema disaster is a tragic event in Paisley’s history. As a community trust we were very conscious of the potential sensitivities involved in bringing cinema back to the town centre. We wanted to do something extra as a community to remember those young lives lost on what should have been a great day out to the movies. When we looked at the scale of our preferred site, the concept of creating a memorial garden was born. We were delighted with the positive reception we received when we approached Marie, Tony and the team. We look forward to working in collaboration with them to create a beautiful and fitting tribute.”

Gary Kerr, Chairman, Paisley Community Trust

 

Paisley Community Trust will unveil its full plans to the public from 12pm on Friday 29th September until 5pm on Saturday 30th September  at the Piazza Paisley. All are welcome to come along to the Piazza to review the plans and meet with the team behind the project.

the coats memorial

Plans are being submitted to Renfrewshire Council which would safeguard the future of one of Paisley’s best loved buildings, Thomas Coats Memorial Church.

The project would see the church transformed into a world class events and entertainment venue which could be used for arts performances, concerts and weddings.

the coats memorial

Looking to retain the striking features of this gothic inspired building, the proposal would see minimal alterations to the fabric of the building which has been under threat for many years due to rising maintenance costs.

Plans, which have support from Historic Environment Scotland, include a distinct theatre performance space and banqueting facility.

With an imposing position at the top of the town’s High Street, the church was commissioned by the family of Thomas Coats of Ferguslie in his memory and completed in 1894.

Known colloquially as the Baptist Cathedral of Europe, its spired gothic design is famous the world over.

However, this stunning building needs significant investment to be preserved for future generations.

With a dwindling congregation and a lack of essential funds required to maintain this iconic building, it is important that action is taken now.

Following year long discussions, a steering group has been working with the current trustees for the last six months to explore options to preserve this important landmark in Paisley’s history.

With the support of the trustees, a new vision has emerged to take this building forward and provide a resource which will benefit the town of Paisley for many years to come.

The man behind the project is Paisley entrepreneur, Ian Henderson, who serves as Chairman of Paisley First Business Improvement District and also sits on the Paisley 2021 Partnership Board.

“I have long been an admirer of this stunning building and like many Buddies, I am concerned that it may be lost to future generations if urgent action isn’t taken,” said Ian.

“As well as creating a world class venue for the arts and events, this proposal would also allow the continuation of University of West Scotland graduations at the church.

“Preserving this magnificent and historically important building now will bring benefits to all in the community.”

Speaking on behalf of the existing trustees, Allan Driver, said: “The existing trustees have spent a significant number of years trying to find a sustainable solution which will safeguard the future of the building, which is too important to be lost to the people of Paisley.

“Of all the options investigated, this is the proposal which we believe provides the most secure future for Thomas Coats Memorial Church.”

The plans being submitted to Renfrewshire Council, for a change of use for the building, would also allow for the continued use of the church by community groups who are currently based there.  

The current trustees of the church would hand the building over to a new trust, Coats Memorial Church Paisley Ltd, comprising of local business people who are all keen to ensure this Paisley landmark is preserved.

It’s expected the funding for the project would be a combination of private investment and grant funding. The application to Renfrewshire Council has been submitted today and is subject to a 21 day consultation period.

To see the designs being submitted to Renfrewshire Council please visit www.cmcpaisley.co.uk

Thousands of people descended on Paisley town centre on Friday 30 June – Sunday 2 July for the first-ever Weave festival, celebrating the town’s radical history and heritage.

The bumper weekend was taking place alongside the annual Sma’ Shot celebrations – one of the world’s oldest workers festivals.

Video Courtesy of Paisley 2021 For City of Culture.