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.

An exhibition at Paisley Museum shows the intricate art of creating pictures from etching.
Etching as a printing method is thought to go as far back as the 15th century and the exhibition features artwork creating by several different forms of the process.


A selection of Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture prints created by etching is now on show at Paisley Museum in a free exhibition, which goes on until June 24.

The exhibition, Ages of Wonder – Art of Etching, includes prints from artists like Alexander Runciman and David Wilkie to Elizabeth Blackadder and Will Maclean.

Visitors can see the best Scottish printmaking of the last two centuries from the RSA’s Recognised Collection of National Significance along with new prints created by contemporary artists.

Joyce McKellar, chief executive of Renfrewshire Leisure said: “The prints created from etching that are on display at Paisley Museum are absolutely stunning.

“You can’t help but admire the skill and expertise of the artists and the exhibition is well worth seeing.”

Plans for Paisley to build a legacy of its UK City of Culture 2021 bid are being financially supported by Coats – the company which made the town the centre of a global empire.

Coats Representitives visit Paisley 9.4.18.

Coats – the world’s largest industrial thread manufacturer – was last year one of 15 firms to pledge £20,000 towards the costs of Paisley hosting the cultural title, should it have won.

And members of the company’s board of directors have confirmed that pledge remains in place for projects promoting the ambitious bid legacy plans of the firm’s birthplace.

Members of the Coats Group plc board, including chairman Mike Clasper CBE and group chief executive Rajiv Sharma, made the announcement during a visit to the town.

Coats Representitives visit Paisley 9.4.18.

While here, they were given a tour of Paisley Museum and Coats Observatory – both built by the Coats family – and Paisley: The Secret Collection – the UK’s first high-street museum store and home to many of the items the mill owners bequeathed to the town.

Paisley is pushing ahead with ambitious plans to deliver on the vision of the 2021 bid to transform the area’s future using its internationally-significant heritage and cultural assets.

That includes a £100m+ investment in town centre venues and infrastructure, including a £42m project to make Paisley Museum into an international-class destination showcasing the town’s rich textile heritage and unique collections.

The Paisley 2021 legacy plan also includes ambitious plans to grow the area’s major events programme, invest in its independent cultural sector, develop as a hub of creative industry, and harness the power of culture to make people’s lives better across health and education services.

The work will be underpinned by the new destination brand paisley.is, which aims to promote Renfrewshire as a great place to live, visit and invest, and help grow the local visitor economy.

While the 19,000 employees of Coats are spread across six continents, the company retains a presence in Paisley – with a high-tech colour management technology team overseeing the dyeing of products manufactured across the globe from its base in the historic Abbey Mills complex.

Members of the Coats board were met at the museum by Councillor Lisa-Marie Hughes, chair of Renfrewshire Leisure, who operate the museum, and by Renfrewshire’s Provost Lorraine Cameron, who also hosted a short civic reception for the board on Monday evening.

Cllr Hughes said: “We are delighted to have welcomed the Coats board to the town and thank them for their contribution towards Paisley’s ongoing transformation.

“While the modern Coats company is very different from the one which started life in Paisley in the 19th century, the spirit of innovation and creative industry which saw it grow to be one of the biggest companies in the world is still at the core of what it does.

“Just as Paisley made textiles, textiles made Paisley – many of the most striking parts of Paisley’s iconic skyline grew from the generosity of the Coats family, as did the globally-significant collections in our museums.

“With the museum set to undergo a transformation into a major visitor destination over the next few years, it was great to show the board how the shared heritage and creative spirit of Paisley and Coats will be at the heart of the town’s future.”

Rajiv Sharma, Group Chief Executive, Coats said:  ‘Coats is extremely proud of its heritage, which is inextricably linked with Paisley.  We are delighted to confirm that we remain committed to the financial pledge we made when we backed the Paisley 2021 bid last year.  The tremendous energy and focus that emerged during the bid process has created a legacy which we want to support.’

For more information on Paisley, visit www.paisley.is

A new initiative could see library books and services being delivered to the homes of people who are housebound and isolated.

Renfrewshire Leisure hopes to introduce a new service after consultation has taken place with organisations that provide supportive care to people who are unable to get out of their homes.
Tablets could be used to access the thousands of titles available in local libraries and books could be delivered by those who make regular home visits to the housebound.

This new service would be financed from the re-investment of the resources made through Renfrewshire’s mobile library service being taken off the road from April 27th.

The decline in people using the mobile library service, the aging fleet and rising costs does not present value for money and new technology can help a wider group of people who are housebound and can’t access either a local or mobile library due to a lack of disability access.

The number of visits to the mobile library has dropped by 65% per cent in the past 5 years from 9,344 to 3,277.


Chief executive of Renfrewshire Leisure – which operates the local library service – Joyce McKellar said: “Along with Renfrewshire Council we have been investing heavily in our library service and we want to make sure the benefits of this investment are available to everyone – even if they can’t get out of their homes to visit a library.

“The mobile library service no longer makes best use of the money and resources and if we can re-invest the money from the current service to bring books and other library services to the housebound, then that is a better use.

“We’re committed to our libraries and we’re providing people with a modern and up-to-date service that includes not just borrowing books, but things like community spaces, access to computers and the internet along with digital learning suites.”

Plans to secure a exciting future for Paisley will be laid out at a celebration event aimed at highlighting the benefits of bidding for UK City of Culture 2021 and how the town plans to continue to harness the power of culture to transform its fortunes.

The ‘Our Journey Continues’ event, which will take place on Thursday 29 March at Paisley Town Hall from 12.00 – 1.30pm, will examine the key benefits of the town’s bid including helping to raise the town’s profile, raising ambitions for the area, developing a deeper understanding of the excellent work taking place in the community.

The town’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2021 changed the town for the better, and the momentum it generated will continue and this will be discussed in more detail at the event.

In addition to celebrating the work which has already taken place it will also reveal more about the future opportunities. This includes investing in cultural venues and outdoor spaces such as Paisley Museum, Paisley Arts Centre and St James Playing Fields, developing the creative economy and enhancing our cultural events and festivals programme and continuing to build on the support from the community. This investment demonstrates how Renfrewshire continues to buck the trend in terms of cultural investment.

Furthermore it will show that the council and its place partners are still committed to achieving the step changes outlined in the bid – to grow a new dimension to the economy, transform the town’s image, lift Paisley’s communities out of poverty, be recognised for cultural excellence and transform the town into a vibrant cultural centre.

The event will see partners and local community groups come together to find out more about future plans and members of the public are encouraged to come along to learn what will happen next for the town.

Chair of the Paisley Partnership Board, Councillor Iain Nicolson, said: “The Our Journey Continues event is not only a celebration of the excellent work which has already taken place through the bidding process but is a great opportunity for us all to look ahead to the exciting plans for the future.”

This event precedes the Future Forward: Culture in Renfrewshire collaborative discussion which will ask attendees what directions culture in Renfrewshire should take, and what successes people would like to build on.  The event will be held in Paisley Town Hall from 2-4pm.

Renfrewshire Leisure’s Head of Cultural Services, Morag Macpherson, said: “The thank you event is a great introduction to the Culture in Renfrewshire discussion which will allow everyone to have their say on what the priorities for culture in Renfrewshire should be in the years to come.

“I’m sure the plans unveiled through Our Journey Continues, and the ideas and ambitions which people come along with, will create a really rich inspirational mix. We will discuss how we best focus our aspirations and collectively create a really exciting cultural environment over the next few years.”

There will also be another Future Forward session on Tues 17 April 6-8pm, places can be booked here.

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.

ALL sports and leisure facilities run by Renfrewshire Leisure will re-open tomorrow. (Saturday, March 3)
The facilities, which had been closed because of the recent severe weather, includes sports centres, swimming pools, libraries, Paisley Museum, Paisley Arts Centre, community centres and town halls.


Joyce McKellar, chief executive of Renfrewshire Leisure said: “Thankfully, it appears we have seen the worst of the extreme weather and we are now able to re-open our facilities.

“We’d like to thank our customers for their patience while we made adjustments to our services during this exceptional bad weather.

“But I would urge people to please continue to take care when travelling over the next few days.
”Customers can keep up to date on their fitness classes and other events by logging on to www.renfrewshireleisure.com or by calling the sports and leisure facilities on 0300 300 0250 and all cultural venues on 0300 300 1210.

Due to the ongoing severe weather, all sports and leisure facilities along with libraries, Paisley Museum, community centres and town halls operated by Renfrewshire Leisure will remain closed on Friday, March 2.

As the weather warning is expected to be downgraded by the Met Office, a decision on whether events taking place at Paisley Town Hall and Paisley Arts Centre on Friday night should go ahead is to be taken during the day, on Friday.

Joyce McKellar, chief executive of Renfrewshire Leisure said: “We’d like to thank our staff and our customers for their patience and understanding during this unusually severe weather.

“Indications are that our facilities should re-open on Saturday, March 3. However I would ask that customers check our social media channels to confirm facilities opening again.”

Provost Lorraine Cameron is urging everyone to go on a stag do – but it’s nothing to do with celebrating getting married.

St Marys PS see Monarch of the Glen on display at Paisley Art Galleries

Renfrewshire’s Provost recently paid a visit to Paisley Museum to see the iconic Scottish painting, Monarch of the Glen, by Sir Edwin Landseer, which is on display there for people to see for free until March 11.

And she’s encouraging people to go along and see the painting of the majestic red deer stag on a mist-covered Highland hilltop for themselves.

Youngsters from St Mary’s Primary, Paisley were also at the Museum to see the painting as part of their project about Paisley and Provost Cameron joined the youngsters in marveling at the famous image.
The Monarch of the Glen was painted in 1851 and has been used in modern times as an advertising tool on everything from beermats, biscuit tins to bottles of whisky.

The painting is an iconic image associated with Scotland and Paisley is only one of four venues in the country chosen by the National Galleries of Scotland for it to go on show.

Provost Cameron said: “I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to see the iconic Monarch of the Glen painting in Renfrewshire and it was great to see local schoolchildren also visiting, who will hopefully be inspired by the stunning piece.

“It’s only fitting that Paisley, being so rich in culture, should host this fantastic painting and I would encourage everyone to ensure they visit the Museum to see the eye-catching piece of artwork while it is here.”

The painting was bought for the nation for £4 million from drinks giant Diageo last year, after a four-month fundraising campaign supported by the National Lottery, Art Fund, the Scottish Government, private trusts and public donations. Diageo had agreed to sell the famous painting for half the market value.

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.