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School children asked to fly the flag for Paisley start of historic rally

Renfrewshire school children are being asked to design a winning flag to wave off drivers taking part in one of the world’s most iconic races.

Paisley is the only British starting point of the 2018 Monte Carlo Rally, with 25 cars setting off for the 1500-mile trip to the South of France next month.

A competition has been launched for local pupils to design a flag to send the competitors in the historic event on their way.

Renfrewshire Provost Lorraine Cameron will select the winner, who will also get to keep the flag after the event on January 31st.

Almost 100 cars in total are expected to leave the start ramp outside Paisley Abbey at 6pm, in three separate categories.

Next year’s event also has crews from Scotland, England, Wales, as well as Europe and the USA.

Provost Cameron said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for school children to get their creative thinking caps on and put their own stamp on a world class event.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the amazing designs I know our talented pupils will come up with and can’t wait to wave the drivers off at the start line.”

Entries can be submitted at schools and local libraries with a closing date of January 15th. The competition is exclusive to primary school children and please remember to include your name, age, school and contact information with your entry.

Next year’s event, which sees Paisley as the sole British starting point for the fifth time, will feature the popular Monte Carlo Heritage Runs and the competitors will be sent off in style from Paisley in a party atmosphere with lights, music and fireworks.

The event will also have lots of motor-themed activities such as a giant scalextric, racing arcade games and free children’s workshops in Paisley Town Hall from 4pm.

Douglas Anderson, the rally’s UK co-ordinator and the man responsible for bringing the Monte Carlo Rally back to Scotland in 2011, said: “We are delighted that the youngsters of the community can get involved in the rally in this way and the winning design will be seen all over Europe.

“It’s wonderful to be returning to Paisley for the fifth year and we are looking forward to a huge turn out on January 31st.”

The Historique class is being run for the 21st year and is restricted to car models which competed in the Monte Carlo Rallies between 1955 and 1980. It will run over eight days on open public roads with the cars and crews having undertaken a series of fourteen demanding test stages in the mountains of southern France.

The Classique event is for older cars from as early as 1911 to 1969 and follows the same route to Monte Carlo but does not include any test stages, the goal simply being to finish after checking in at a series of control points on the way, including Dumfries in the south of Scotland, Barnby Moor in Nottinghamshire and Banbury in Oxfordshire.

For more information please go to www.paisley2021.co.uk

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Paisley singer Lisa Kowalski unveils debut music video about her hometown

Paisley singer-songwriter Lisa Kowalski has unveiled her very first music video – inspired by the positivity of her hometown.

“Hearts of Gold” recounts the 17-year-old’s experiences of busking on Paisley High Street since the age of 14 and the wave of support she has received from local people.

The video sees the up-and-coming singer joined by a crowd of fellow Buddies – including St Mirren Football Club mascot, the Paisley Panda, and youngsters from PACE Youth Theatre – as they dance along Paisley High Street and around some of the town’s iconic landmarks.

Lisa was awarded funding from Renfrewshire’s Culture Heritage and Events (CHE) Fund towards her debut EP “Free Spirits” and the filming of a music video for her single “Hearts of Gold”.

The CHE fund aims to raise cultural ambition, enhance participation and unlock creative potential in Renfrewshire.

It is one of the key legacies of Paisley’s 2021 bid for UK City of Culture and has so far supported 80 projects to the tune of more than £630,000.

Paisley was the only Scottish place on the shortlist for the UK City of Culture 2021 competition alongside Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland, Swansea and Coventry, which took the title.

Lisa’s video was filmed by local youth arts organisation Create Paisley, which has worked closely with Lisa in recent years through a number of song-writing programmes and events.

After unveiling her first music video, Lisa Kowalski said: “I’ve received so much support in Paisley since starting my music career and it only felt fair to give something back to show how grateful I am.

“It was so much fun to film and I was so happy that a lot of people turned up to take part. I absolutely love the way it turned out!

“I really think this video captures the amazing community and talent this town has to offer and the happiness that Paisley’s UK City of Culture 2021 bid has caused. Although we missed out on the title, we’ve still come really far and achieved so much in this journey and I believe that this town and the people in it will only continue to excel.”

The release marks the end of a successful year for the young musician after she reached the final six of Salute Music UK’s Top 100 competition in October.

Lisa’s original song “I Do” was selected by a panel of music industry judges to be one of 100 songs from over 2000 entries in the competition.

Renfrewshire Council Leader and Convenor of the Leadership Board, Councillor Iain Nicholson said: “Lisa’s video really captures the pride of Paisley and the positive journey around the town’s UK City of Culture 2021 bid – and it’s great to see another fantastic project benefiting from Renfrewshire’s Culture, Heritage and Events Fund.

“The CHE Fund has already supported amazing talent in the area, such as filmmaker Morgan Spence’s spectacular Lego animation about Paisley, a collaboration between local group right2dance and the internationally renowned Sir Matthew Bourne’s Re:Bourne company and much more.

“This funding is an important part of the legacy of Paisley’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2021 and will continue to shine a spotlight on local talent across Renfrewshire.”

Applications for the next round of Renfrewshire’s CHE Fund should be submitted by February 12th 2018.

You can watch Lisa Kowalski’s video for “Hearts of Gold” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F19NLO8NsPs&feature=youtu.be

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St Mirren continue to fly the flag for the town’s UK City of Culture bid at Paisley 2021 Stadium

St Mirren FC will continue to fly the flag for Paisley’s UK City of Culture 2021 bid with an extension to a deal to keep its stadium name in place until the end of May 2018.

If the town takes title there will be an option to extend the sponsorship to retain the name of the Paisley 2021 Stadium until May 2022.

The news is announced as the club erected new signage outside the stadium and is an extension of the original two year two-year sponsorship and stadium naming rights deal struck with Renfrewshire Council in November 2015.

The venue was renamed from St Mirren Park to mark Paisley’s UK City of Culture 2021 bid.

Paisley is shortlisted for the title alongside Coventry, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland and Swansea. The winner will be announced tomorrow evening by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which organised the competition.

Paisley 2021 Bid Director Jean Cameron said: “St Mirren are at the heart of the community and we are delighted to have their continued support. Paisley’s bid journey has been a positive one and will continue no matter what the outcome.

“The Paisley 2021 stadium forms part of this legacy and keeps the name going.”

St Mirren Director Tony Fitzpatrick said: “The fortunes of the town and the club are interlinked and we are delighted to continue with our support of Paisley 2021.

“A winning year of culture would be great for both the town and the club.

“With the UK City of Culture decision imminent, we wish Paisley the very best of luck in its bid for the title.”

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Monte Carlo Rally to return to Paisley in 2018

Final preparations are being made for the Paisley start of the 2018 historic rally run to Monte Carlo…..and it’s been confirmed there will be the largest number of entries so far with a total of 25 cars setting off for the 1500-mile trip to the South of France.

It’ll be the fifth time the town – the sole shortlisted Scottish entry for the title UK City of Culture 2021 – will be the only British start point of six European cities.

Pictured Alan Stark and Driver Sandy McEwan in a 1971 Porsche ,Douglas Anderson the Uk Coordinator with his 1961 Triumph Herald ,Tony Fitzpatrick Chief Executive St Mirren Football Club and Rally Driver Iain MacDonald from Kilmacolm in a 1967 Saab 96 with Renfrewshire Provost Lorraine Cameron
Final preparations are being made for the Paisley start of the the 2018 historic rally run to Monte Carlo…..and its been confirmed there will be the largest number of entries so far with a total of 25 Cars setting off for the 15000-mile trip to the south of france.Itll be the 5th time the town -the sole shortlisted Scottish entry for the UK city of culture 2021 will be the only British start point of six european cities.
All rally enquiries to Alan Douglas -alan.doug@ntlworld.com
Mark F Gibson / Gibson Digital
infogibsondigital@gmail.co.uk
www.gibsondigital.co.uk
All images © Gibson Digital 2017. Free first use only for editorial in connection with the commissioning client’s press-released story. All other rights are reserved. Use in any other context is expressly prohibited without prior permission.

Close to a hundred cars in total are expected to leave the start ramp outside Paisley Abbey at 6pm on Wednesday January 31st in three separate categories.

The Historique class is being run for the 21st year and is restricted to car models which competed in the Monte Carlo Rallies between 1955 and 1980. It will run over eight days on open public roads with the cars and crews having undertaken a series of fourteen demanding test stages in the mountains of southern France.

The Classique event is for older cars from as early as 1911 to 1969 and follows the same route to Monte Carlo but does not include any test stages, the goal simply being to finish in Monte Carlo after checking in at a series of control points on the way, including Dumfries in the south of Scotland, Barnby Moor in Nottinghamshire and Banbury in Oxfordshire.

Once again the event will feature the popular Monte Heritage Runs which will follow on from the full-scale events and motoring enthusiasts in a range of interesting cars from over the years will take in a series of short classic routes in Scotland, including Aberdeen, Dumfries and Stirling.

Pictured Renfrewshire Provost Lorraine Cameron in a 1967 Saab 96
Final preparations are being made for the Paisley start of the the 2018 historic rally run to Monte Carlo…..and its been confirmed there will be the largest number of entries so far with a total of 25 Cars setting off for the 15000-mile trip to the south of france.Itll be the 5th time the town -the sole shortlisted Scottish entry for the UK city of culture 2021 will be the only British start point of six european cities.
All rally enquiries to Alan Douglas -alan.doug@ntlworld.com
Mark F Gibson / Gibson Digital
infogibsondigital@gmail.co.uk
www.gibsondigital.co.uk
All images © Gibson Digital 2017. Free first use only for editorial in connection with the commissioning client’s press-released story. All other rights are reserved. Use in any other context is expressly prohibited without prior permission.

In January this year a crowd of around 10,000 gathered in the centre of Paisley with the magnificent backdrop of the Abbey to wave off the crews in a party atmosphere with lights, music, street food and fireworks…..and working with staff from Renfrewshire Council and volunteers from many motorsport clubs in Scotland, the organisers are confident of making the start even bigger and better next year.

At today’s official launch of the 2018 event at St Mirren Football Club’s ground, the Paisley 2021 Stadium, Renfrewshire’s Provost Lorraine Cameron said: “We are delighted to welcome the only UK start leg of this prestigious international event back to Paisley for another year – and it’s great to have the support of St Mirren.

“The cars are always a really popular spectacle which draw a big crowd into the town centre and I am looking forward to waving them off on the night as they head to Monte-Carlo.

“By the time the event rolls around we will know if Paisley has been successful in its bid to be UK City of Culture 2021 – events like this one are a huge part of our plans to bring visitors into Paisley and boost the local economy.”

St Mirren chief executive Tony Fitzpatrick added: “Paisley means everything to St Mirren, so we support anything which helps put the town on the map – and Paisley’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2021 and this event both certainly do that.

“We enjoyed welcoming the cars to the Paisley 2021 Stadium and I’m sure they will generate another great turnout in the town centre.”

Douglas Anderson, the UK co-ordinator and the man responsible for bringing the Monte back to Scotland in 2011, will be leading the cars off to Monte Carlo in his 1961 Triumph Herald Coupe.

He said: “The Paisley Abbey Start of the Monte Carlo Rally is acknowledged to be the best of all the Rally Starts, with thousands of Paisley buddies cheering the cars and crews on their way to the snowy Alps and on to the sunshine in Monte Carlo.”

Among the entrants who’ll be heading for Monte Carlo in the Historique Class is Iain MacDonald of Kilmacolm, along with Swedish co-driver Patrick Toorell in his 1967 Saab 96.

He’s looking forward to the adventure: “I competed in rallies in the Sixties and Seventies around the UK and more recently in Scandinavia but the Monte has got to be the ultimate and it’ll be a challenge in our 50 year old Saab. It’ll be interesting to set off from Paisley Abbey. I was married there in 1972.”

Also taking part in the Historiques is Sandy McEwen and Alan Stark in a rare 1971 Porsche 914/6 which Sandy has bought specially for the event. Although Sandy has more than 45 years of experience in motorsport including driving single-seaters, GTs, saloons and historics, he describes himself as “a rallying newbie”.

One of the crews in the Classique Class is Albert De May and co-driver Roland De Bargigli from Belgium. They’ll be driving their 1936 Chevrolet Coupe and had originally planned to set off from Lisbon but when that start point was cancelled they opted instead for Paisley.

“I love the UK and especially Scotland so it’s all worked out well. The Paisley start point also gives us the opportunity to travel through more attractive routes,”

said Albert.

All the competing cars will assemble from around 4pm in the precincts of Paisley Abbey on the evening of Wednesday January 31st before setting off at 6pm for the long drive south.

 

More information can be found at www.monte.scot

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21st edition of Provost’s Community Awards launches in Renfrewshire

Local heroes across Renfrewshire are to be recognised as the Provost’s Community Awards open once again for nominations.

The awards are into their third decade and aim to give civic recognition to those who work or live in Renfrewshire, and are making a difference to their community.

Nominations can be made in six categories this year, an increase from five in previous years.

A new Arts and Culture award has been created which will seek out the hidden, or not so hidden, gems who light up Renfrewshire’s cultural scene.

Five other awards, Community Group, Community Volunteer, Sporting Achievement, Carers’ Award and Employer of the Year, give the opportunity for local people to give recognition to their colleagues, friends and family for the work they do in their community.

Renfrewshire’s Provost Lorraine Cameron said: “This will be my first Community Awards in my role as Provost and I can’t wait to see the nominations coming in.

“Our area is full of inspiring community members who deserve to be recognised for the difference they make to the lives of those around them.

“There are a number of different categories to nominate in so don’t miss your chance and nominate the people or groups who you think deserve to win a Community Award.”

The Community Group award is sponsored by the Piazza Shopping Centre and celebrates the organisations in Renfrewshire that have a positive effect on their communities.

Sponsored by Glasgow Airport, the Community Volunteer award recognises those who give their time and effort for nothing more than the knowledge that they are making a difference to their community.

Perennial award sponsor Acre Industrial will present the Sporting Achievement award to the person, team or group who have represented Renfrewshire to a high standard this year in the sporting arena.

Former Renfrewshire Provost Nancy Allison, who has been a part of each of the Community Awards since its inception, donates the Carers Award which recognises anyone who cares for a relative, friend or neighbour.

This year, Employer of the Year is sponsored by UNISON and encourages nominations for employers who have provided a positive working environment and have gone above and beyond the call of duty for their staff.

Anyone who lives or works in Renfrewshire can be nominated for an award.

Further information can be found on www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/provostawards

Printed nomination forms are available at Council offices and facilities.

The closing date for nominations is Friday 1 December.

The winners in each category will be invited to a special ceremony which will be held in March 2017

For further enquiries contact: provostawards@renfrewshire.gov.uk.

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Discover more about Paisley’s Heritage during Doors Open Days

A series of workshops and exhibitions will take place this weekend to celebrate Paisley’s rich built heritage as part of Renfrewshire Council’s Townscape Heritage Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme 2 (TH.CARS 2).

The legendary Paisley Arts Centre will play host to a range of TH.CARS 2 activities taking place as part of Doors Open Days on Saturday 2 September 2017.

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.

During Doors Open Days visitors can view work created by the STAR Project and artist Mandy McIntosh about the life and work of Paisley architect James Steel Maitland – including a short film and a publication ‘Special Concrete’. Create Paisley and local film maker Kevin Cameron will also premiere a short documentary ’Coats Tales – the Town that Coats Built’ about the architectural legacy left to Paisley by the Coats & Clarks families.

There will also be an opportunity to participate in a cognitive mapping workshop with designers Dress for the Weather and After the News where participants can think about how to mentally map their own Paisley. The Paisley TH.CARS2 team will be available throughout the day to provide information about future opportunities available through their five-year heritage and culture programme, and the grant funds available to Paisley town centre building owners.

The activities taking place not only celebrate the town’s heritage but also encourage people to get involved in a range of cultural activities. This is a key part of Paisley’s bid for UK City of Culture 2021.

Depute Leader of Renfrewshire Council, Cllr Jim Paterson, said: “Paisley boasts an impressive built heritage and it’s great to see this celebrated during Doors Open Days and through the TH.CARS 2 project.

“Events and activities like this will help share the town’s unique story and attract more visitors and businesses to the area.”

Michael Easson, Grants Manager at HES, said:  “The funding awarded through our CARS and Historic Environment Repair Grant to Paisley in the last few years has played a significant role in supporting investment in the City’s built environment.

“We now hope, via  Doors Open Day 2017, this can help Renfrewshire Council attract as wide an audience as possible to engage with the City’s many fine heritage attractions, now and in the months and years to come.”

The events at Paisley Arts Centre are not the only activities TH.CARS2 are delivering over the course of the Doors Open Days weekend. An Arty-Archi Sketching and Walking Tour will also take place on 2 September. Heritage expert Alison McClandish leads an architectural sketching tour of Paisley’s Oakshaw area. The tour starts and finishes outside the High St entrance of UWS.

Additionally, a traditional building skills demonstration will take place at Abbey Close on 4 and 5 September. The public will be able to see the traditional building skills and crafts which maintain Paisley’s architectural heritage in action. The project is being delivered by TH.CARS2 in partnership with West College Scotland, and with the support of the Glasgow Traditional Building Forum, Scottish Traditional Building Forum, Glasgow City Heritage Trust, National Federation of Roofing Contractors, Stone Federation GB, CITB, Paisley Abbey and Paisley Hammermen Society.

To find out more about the Paisley Townscape Heritage and Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme please visit: www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/thcars2

To find out more about the events taking place as part of Doors Open Days please visit: www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/doorsopendays

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Don’t miss your chance to look inside Renfrewshire’s historic landmarks

The ‘Porridge Bowl’, unique gargoyles and the home of Robert Burns’ compatriot are just a few of the intriguing sights and locations visitors to Renfrewshire can experience next weekend.

Paisley Abbey

Part of a worldwide event with over 50 countries taking part, Renfrewshire Doors Open Days is a celebration of the fantastic architecture and significant history of the region.

On Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 September, everyone will have the opportunity to experience a weekend of exploration around Renfrewshire as many venues not normally accessible to the public open their doors for a look inside.

Alison Christie with children at the Sma’ Shot Cottages

On Saturday, the home of Robert Tannahill, the ‘Weaver Poet’ who formed a close relationship with Robert Burns, will be open for visitors to see the extraordinary collection of memorabilia on display at what is now the home to one of the oldest Burns Clubs in the world.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to look inside the John Neilson Institute which, due to its distinctive roof, is nicknamed the Porridge Bowl and has become a distinct feature of Paisley’s skyline.

Sunday will see the Renfrew Victory Baths welcome visitors in on a guided tour of the striking Edwardian swimming pool  which was awarded Grade ‘B’ listed status in 1971, while Castle Semple in Lochwinnoch will offer tours of the lookout tower giving visitors to take in the spectacular views of the loch and Garnock Valley.

After the news Paisley has been shortlisted for UK City of Culture 2021, its High St location will open its doors on both days to give everyone a chance to find out more about what the bid means for the area, what it could do for you and what’s still to come in the next few months.

More than 50 buildings and locations will be open for the public across the weekend ensuring there is something to peak everyone’s interest.

Kids can collect their own Doors Open Days passport from participating buildings and Renfrewshire’s libraries which they can fill up over the weekend with stamps.

Collecting five stamps will see them rewarded with a certificate and a gift in yet another reason to get involved.

Renfrewshire’s Provost Lorraine Cameron will be joining members of the public in exploring the area and can’t wait to see what she discovers.

Provost Cameron said: “We are extremely fortunate to have so many beautiful, historic buildings in Renfrewshire but it is not often that we take the time to visit them.

“Venues from across the area will open their doors to let us inside next weekend and I can’t wait to take up the opportunity.

“I will be at the Council chambers from 10am until midday so I’d be delighted to see you while I’m also looking forward to visiting the Sma’ Shot Cottages as it is always fascinating to hear the volunteers speak on the history of the weavers.

“So if you’ve always meant to visit Paisley Abbey, or never had the time to walk around Castle Semple, this weekend is the perfect opportunity so don’t miss out and visit as many locations as you can.”

The Renfrewshire Doors Open Day programme is available from all Renfrewshire libraries.

An online version can be downloaded from www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/doorsopendays

For a look forward to what’s coming up across Renfrewshire visit www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/events or www.paisley2021.co.uk/events

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St Mirren V Morton

St Mirren welcome Greenock Morton to the Paisley 2021 Stadium tomorrow for the final game of 2016 as we look to end the year on a high.

Saints come into this game unbeaten in their last three home games and are aiming to make it four when our Renfrewshire rivals come to town.

The team will look to the first game of 2016 for inspiration after Lawrence Shankland’s first half header got St Mirren’s year off to a flying start securing a 1-0 win over our Renfrewshire rivals at Cappielow on January 2.

Tickets are on sale at smfctickets.co.uk and will be on sale at the ticket office from 10am right until kick-off.

The Club are offering fans who buy an adult ticket for the 31st December game against Morton a discount on their ticket for the first home game of 2017 when St Mirren face Queen of the South on 7th January at The Paisley 2021 Stadium.

If you have already purchased an adult ticket for the Morton game then hold on to your ticket stub after the match as it will let you buy an adult ticket for £15 for the upcoming match against Queen of the South.

Alternatively, you can purchase tickets for both matches at the same time and it will only cost £35.  Also, any Season Ticket holder who attends the Morton game also has the opportunity to purchase a ticket for a friend for the Queen of the South game for £15.

Please note that this offer needs to be purchased at the St Mirren Ticket Office in person or over the phone, there is no online option. This offer is only available until 2:00pm on Friday 6th January.

Your support is greatly appreciated and it truly makes a difference to the players when the supporters are in top voice.

So come along tomorrow and make some noise as we look to end 2016 in style.

Come on Ye Saints!

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Street Stuff set for festive fun

Renfrewshire’s award-winning Street Stuff programme will entertain hundreds of young people this Christmas as a special activity camp takes place.

St Mirren Manager Jack Ross

St Mirren Manager Jack Ross

Football, dance, table tennis, photography and gaming are just some of the activities on offer from Monday 26 December to Tuesday 3 January at the Paisley 2021 Stadium.

St Mirren legend Tony Fitzpatrick will be showcasing the second book in his Babakoochi Bear series on Wednesday 28 December- as part of a festive party featuring a DJ and talent show which will see 150 young people have a Christmas meal in the St Mirren hospitality suite..

Youngsters in attendance will receive a free meal as part of each session of the programme ensuring they learn the importance of exercise and healthy eating.

0/12/16 LADBROKES CHAMPIONSHIP  ST MIRREN v RAITH ROVERS  PAISLEY 2021 STADIUM - PAISLEY

(L-R) St Mirren players Kyle Magennis, John Sutton and Kyle McAllister

The programme is being supported by the Paisley 2021 Bid Team to introduce cultural activities to young people taking part including the brand new culture bus which features DJ decks and other musical equipment.

Activities are free to attend and places will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.

The full list of activities on the Christmas programme can be found at: www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/streetstuff

Councillor Eddie Devine, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Environment Policy Board, said: “Our Street Stuff programme is helping to engage with young people and is making a noticeable difference in our communities.

“Thousands of our young people are taking part in free interactive activity sessions which is keeping them safe, fit, happy and healthy.

“There are a fantastic range of activities on across the festive period and I would encourage everyone to sign up to take part.”

Street Stuff began in 2009 as a partnership between Renfrewshire Council, St Mirren FC, Engage Renfrewshire, Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

It aims to work with young people on the streets and since its inception; reported incidents of youth disorder and antisocial behaviour in Renfrewshire have dropped by 75 per cent.

To sign up for any of the sessions contact: Stephen Gallacher via stephen.gallagher@stmirren.com or Emma Phelan via emma.phelan@stmirren.com.

Further information on Street Stuff and an up-to-date Renfrewshire-wide programme of activities can be found at: www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/streetstuff

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St Mirren FC boss ‘bears’ up to school storytelling session

St Mirren FC boss –  and children’s author – Tony Fitzpatrick  was in for a storytelling treat along with a class of P3 pupils when he visited St Catherine’s Primary School in Paisley.

bababkoochi-bear-2021-storytelling-at-st-catherines-with-tony-fitzpatrick-on-right-and-laurence-doherty-left

The local football legend was in the Gallowhill school to join a storytelling session of his book Babakoochi Bear – The Promise: Together Again, published last year in memory of his late son Tony.

The session was the first time that the popular St Mirren Director and Chief Executive had heard a story teller narrate the loving tribute he penned to Tony jnr, who died in 1983 aged just six.

Tony sat with the 22 Primary 3 pupils who took it in turns to hear children and families mobile library worker Laurence Doherty tell the adventures of the magical bear – named after father Tony’s nickname for his wee boy.  And all the action took place in Renfrewshire Leisure’s award-winning Skoobmobile early years outreach bus on one of its regular visits to St Catherine’s.

While one half of the class was captivated by the storytelling, the other half took part in mini focus group sessions by the Council’s Paisley 2021 officials to hear what the children like about Paisley – and what they would like happen if Paisley is awarded the  coveted UK City of Culture title.

Tony spoke about his book and its characters to the youngsters and donated copies to St Catherine’s school and the Skoobmobile.

His visit was a welcome return to St Catherine’s Primary School as his twins – Steven and James, now aged 27 – attended the primary school for a while as nippers.

Tony said: “It was a terrific experience to hear Babakoochi read by a storyteller – it really came over well and was a great moment for me.

“I loved the experience – the kids really took Babakoochi and the other characters to heart. They started to speak about their own losses. One wee girl said she had lost her dog and her gran – it was wonderful to hear them talking about the themes in the book.”

Originally Tony had hoped to bring along his second Babakoochi Bear story: “The Dream: You Can Do This” – due out in a few weeks with the plot based around Babakoochi’s ambition to become a footballer.

This time, says Tony, the theme will be about the importance of self-belief and determination in reaching goals in life.  

Babakoochi is told he’s too small to become a footballer and has to work hard to prove everyone wrong – a theme from Tony’s own young life before he went on to have a glittering football playing career which included captaining St Mirren to the Scottish Cup Final in 1987.

Despite his new book not quite ready to show to the pupils, Tony relished the chance to be with the youngsters.

“It was also really nice to be back in St Catherine’s. I used to pick the boys up from school there.  It was a great day.”

Teresa Brown, Head Teacher of St Catherine’s, said: “Tony’s visit and the Skoobmobile sessions were wonderful opportunities and a great way to inspire the children.

“To welcome an author who has written such a marvellous book and to hear reading brought to the life by the narrator was a fantastic experience for all the children.  

“We’ve already begun reading the book which Tony so kindly gave to the school – and the children are loving it!

“We’re also delighted to have the chance to contribute to the 2021 bid to become UK City of Culture.  St Catherine’s has 14 Active Citizenship groups and one of them is for Paisley 2021 – they’re very involved in doing what we can to promote and support Paisley’s goal of getting the UK title.”