Winning the UK City of Culture title would be a ‘life-changing experience’ for the people of Paisley and Renfrewshire – says the city which first hosted the title four years ago.
The Northern Irish city of Derry-Londonderry was UK City of Culture in 2013 – and has promised Paisley is in line for wide-ranging economic and social benefits should it land the prestigious title.
Paisley was last weekend named the only Scottish bidder on the shortlist for the 2021 competition, alongside Coventry, Stoke, Sunderland and Swansea.
And one of the key figures behind Derry-Londonderry’s year in the international spotlight says Paisley’s long-term economic future would be transformed if it emerges as the winner.
That year saw the city host major events such as BBC Radio One’s Big Weekend and prestigious modern art showcase The Turner Prize.
Oonagh McGillion, Director of Legacy with Derry City and Strabane District Council said: “The hosting of the inaugural UK City of Culture in 2013 was life-changing for our citizens – it not only gave us a real sense of pride and achievement but instilled new confidence and aspirations for the entire community.
“It was also place-changing in terms of investment in regeneration and the local environment and was hugely successful in uniting our communities to share and celebrate their experiences.
“We believe our city is still in the early stages of its development and the economic legacy projected will be realised over a ten-year period.
“The UK City of Culture title was significant for us in bringing about positive investment in cultural regeneration, developing our visual arts and expanding our festival and events offering, as well as increasing our hotel occupancy figures and audience attendance at cultural events.
“Recently we launched details of our joint bid with Belfast to bid for the European Capital of Culture for 2023 and this would be a significant legacy project not only for Derry and Belfast but for all of Northern Ireland.
“Securing UK City of Culture would be a fantastic coup for Paisley in terms of investment, regeneration and profile and in putting it on the map.”
Paisley’s bid for the title is taking place as part of a wider push to use the town’s unique cultural and heritage offer to make it a key destination within Scotland.
That includes a new destination brand for the area, investment in cultural infrastructure – such as the £42m plans to transform Paisley Museum – and an expansion of the area’s existing events programme which already includes big days such as the British Pipe Band Championships, The Spree and the Halloween Festival.
That work is set to happen with or without the UK City of Culture title – but should Paisley win in 2021 it would take the town’s profile to new levels, while giving the chance to secure long-lasting benefits.
And statistics show the extent to which Derry has built a legacy of a new tourist economy over the past four years – welcoming even more visitors in 2016 than it did in 2013 when hosting the title.
Odhran Dunne, general manager of Visit Derry said: “In 2012 the city had 164,000 overnight visitors, which rose to 254,000 in 2013 and last year reached 283,000.
“The profile that 2013 created really did a lot for us in terms of attracting people to come here.”
Paisley is due to submit its second-stage bid to be UK City of Culture 2021 in September, with the winner to be announced at the end of the year.
For more information on Paisley’s bid, see paisley2021.co.uk