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New venue plans take step forward with cash boost

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Ambitious plans for a community-led theatre and cinema development in Paisley town centre have taken another step forward thanks to a council cash injection.

The Paisley 2021 Community Development Trust is working on innovative proposals for a multi-purpose performance venue as part of the wider push to use culture and heritage to transform Paisley’s future, including a bid for UK City of Culture 2021.

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And the trust has been awarded up to a maximum of £34,000 from a council fund for social enterprises to help them produce a detailed business case for the new venue.

A feasibility study into a new venue was one of the key strands of the heritage-led regeneration strategy for Paisley revealed by Renfrewshire Council last year.

The flagship project of the regeneration strategy is the plans to turn Paisley Museum into a national museum of textile and costume and an international destination for heritage tourism.

The Paisley 2021 Trust – a charitable organisation formed by local businessmen and including PACE Theatre Group – last year approached the council and offered to take the lead on the study into the new theatre/cinema.

The money for the project comes from a social enterprise grant fund set up last year through the council’s Invest in Renfrewshire programme to support business and create employment.

Councillors on the Economy and Jobs Board this week approved the award of an additional £100k to extend the grant scheme for another year until 2017.

Renfrewshire Council Leader Mark Macmillan said: “We are taking forward ambitious and far-reaching plans to use Paisley’s internationally-significant heritage and cultural assets to transform the town’s future.

“Paisley is due to lodge its bid for UK City of Culture in 2021 and crucial to that will be boosting the area’s cultural programme, which means we need to consider our venue capacity.

“That bid process is bigger than anything the council can do on its own – it will need the entire community pulling together, which is why we are delighted the Paisley 2021 Trust has volunteered to run with this element of it.

“The social enterprise grant fund has been a big success since it launched last year, with a number of worthy local causes having benefitted to date, and we are delighted to be able to extend that fund to run into 2017.”

Paisley 2021 trustee Gary Kerr added: “We are delighted with the level of support we are receiving from the council at this stage of the project.

“The feasibility study is an exciting development which we hope will demonstrate the viability of a new theatre and cinema in Paisley town centre.

“Our consultants will be speaking to the local community as well as touring groups, performers and agents.

“We hope by the end to have established a demand for it, what shape it should take, and which of the five sites we have earmarked it should be on.”

Other third-sector projects to benefit from the social enterprise small grants scheme since it was set up last year include Crisis Counselling, Erskine Music and Media Studio, Scottish Huntington’s Association and KipCo Kilbarchan Improvement Projects.

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Plan to breathe new life in to the very heart of Paisley

GCK at Arnotts

Plan to breathe new life in to the very heart of Paisley

A local businessman’s plan to breathe new life in to the very heart of Paisley has been backed by a number of individuals representing organisations that see the positive vision of the plan. Gary Kerr, Managing Director of EPM Solutions an asset management company has been working on the idea for some considerable time. The plans were to develop the empty Arnotts’ site in to a niche multi use cinema space with retail facilities.

GCK at Arnotts

Speaking on his idea, Gary said:

‘I have been working with others on a number of ideas to help revitalise the centre of Paisley for well over a year now. While I welcome the council’s plans for housing at the site this will not be the key to revitalising the town in isolation.

‘Rather than just moving people around the town to new homes we should be encouraging people to come in to the town, spend money on leisure activities, making it a venue for families to visit, have something to eat, do a bit of shopping and see a film. This is how we encourage more people in to the town, increasing footfall and breathing new life in to the High Street.

‘I have contacted developers and Regional Screen Scotland to look at the site and they are excited that such a choice site is available and they can see the prospect of a cinema as very real. One developer is currently researching the town to look at the sustainability of such a project.

‘I am delighted that so many individuals have looked at this and are willing to give it their full backing. I happy to work with others who may now be willing to take this idea beyond concept and into feasibility stage.’

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Gary has a number of Backers including Paisley’s MSP, George Adam, Piero Pierraccini – Paisley Development Trust, Jaki McDougall – Chief Executive of the GFT and Glasgow Film Festival, Ron Inglis – Chief Executive of Regional Screen Scotland and Garry Quigley President of the Students’ Association of the University of the West of Scotland.

George Adam stated:

‘I have been encouraging and backing Gary for a substantial amount of time with this project. He is right that there needs to be a reason for people in Renfrewshire to come to Paisley, spend cash and help the economic development of the town. We need people with ideas willing to put their head above the parapet to look at how town centres will look in the future. Gary’s plan is timely, particularly with Scottish Government money being put in to the council’s proposed housing. We need to make sure that all investment is looked at carefully and should be spent in ways that will give the most benefit to the people of the town.’

Regional Screen Scotland’s Chief Executive said this on Gary’s idea:

‘Regional Screen Scotland’s role is to support and develop cinema provision in Scotland. We are particularly interested in supporting opportunities where there is strong local support and a clear opportunity to create a vibrant, modern cinema facility. The proposal to include a multi-screen modern digital cinema within the redevelopment of the Arnotts site in central Paisley is an excellent example of the type of cinema facility we encourage. It could be an impressive and well used addition to the social, cultural and economic life of Paisley. We therefore fully support the proposal to include cinema in the redevelopment of the Arnotts site. While full feasibility studies would be required in order to investigate exactly what is developed, it is important at this early stage to retain cinema as a core element in the proposals.

Jaki McDougall, Chief Executive of the GFT and Glasgow Film Festival has met with Gary to discuss the plans. She said:

‘Gary is someone who is totally dedicated to his home town. Having met him I can see the vision and passion he has to help make Paisley a great destination. I have looked at his ideas to bring a cinema right in to the heart of Paisley next to amenities, the historic abbey and the town hall. The work currently being undertaken should show how popular the idea of the cinema would be for the town and I hope before too long Paisley will once again have its own cinema.’

Piero Pierraccini from the Paisley development Trust said:

‘The creation of a leisure led development is definitely the way forward as with more and more students living in the town centre we must provide and incentive for them to spend their leisure pounds in the town and not take the train to Glasgow.

‘As I am also in the leisure and entertainment sector and after my recent move to the High Street I am more acutely aware of how many students and local folk feel that they are starved of entertainment venues in Paisley. Further with a bus station close by, the development would attract visitors from within Renfrewshire to come to Paisley more often.

‘Paisley needs to kick start its regeneration and I can see no better way to assist in the process than the development as proposed.’

President of the Students’ Association in Paisley said:

“There is over 9,000 students who study in our Paisley Campus and for too long these students have chosen to spend their leisure time in Glasgow, due to the attractive services that the city offers. This masterplan would reverse that and keep more of our students in the town; enjoying what the proposed cinema and theatre complex would offer them.”

The plans for the cinema may include a multi-screen mixed use venue which can be used as a conference centre, theatre space, an arts area and for digital computer competitions where computer games can be played on the screens.