‘Totally wicked’ – that is the verdict from eight-year old Lily Blake on Paisley’s forthcoming Halloween Festival and annual celebration of the spooky and macabre.

Lily is one of over 700 children and young people who are transforming the streets of Paisley into a spectacular illuminated ghoulish wonderland with flying witches, giant pumpkins, breath-taking aerial displays and mardi gras-style parade.

Having listed as a top UK festival in 2016 and 2017, Paisley’s Halloween is back with ‘Something Wicked this Way Comes’ and is set to thrill and chill visitors from all over Scotland. The hugely popular event will be set against a backdrop of the town’s historic steeples and spires and rooted in the town’s history of 17th century witch trials.

The festival, supported by the Year of Young People 2018 event fund managed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate, has been significantly enhanced for the themed year with a full town centre takeover, drawing in tens of thousands of locals and visitors – boosting business for local retailers, restaurants and hotels.

Young people are at the heart of the Festival’s development and a 20-strong Youth Panel has been working alongside Renfrewshire Council’s Events Team to design and deliver the festival programme. In addition, 180 young people will take part in a new creative learning programme with the opportunity to participate in all aspects of festival delivery from performance to live event management and technical production.

Kate McBurnie, 15, Youth Panel spokesperson, said: “It has been a great experience to be part of the festival and there are so many creative ways to get involved. I really love music and wanted to work on the soundscapes element of the lighting installations. The Parade has thrown up a lot of opportunities and we have been totally hands-on when the creative companies have asked for ideas. We are getting involved in everything from the technical side and working with aerial artists to creating large props and helping with special effects. I am really looking forward to seeing how everything will work together”.

Renfrewshire Council Leader Iain Nicolson said: “The opportunities that have been created for local young people around this year’s festival are exceptional and I am delighted to see the confidence and creativity with which our young people have responded. Paisley’s Halloween Festival is a remarkable event, one of the biggest of its kind, and it continues to put Paisley on the map as a destination for major cultural events.

“The programme for this year is the most ambitious yet – and will see two days of entertainment across the town centre, almost all of which will be free.

“Paisley’s young people are the real stars of the show. Through their collaboration with three of Scotland’s top creative events companies, visitors to the town will be immersed in a truly unique Halloween experience that showcases the best of Paisley and invited to step into the darker side of our history”.

Paul Bush, OBE, VisitScotland Director of Events, said: “We are delighted to be supporting Paisley Halloween Festival to expand its offering as part of Scotland’s Year of Young People 2018 celebrations.

“Young people will have the chance to showcase their own unique skills and talents while getting invaluable hands-on experience.

“It is a great opportunity for young people to take a leading role in designing and delivering a fantastic event within their local community, further reinforcing Scotland as the perfect stage for events as the creative learning programme will educate the event organisers of tomorrow.”

The parade will set off from Paisley’s Art Centre at 6pm on Saturday October 27, featuring 500 young people and performers in costume, and will make its way through the town passing lighting installations and haunting soundscapes along the way. Spectacular aerial performances will take place throughout the evening with a cast of witches suspended from Paisley Town Hall.

Parade specialist, Noel Bridgeman of Bridgeman Arts has designed and constructed four enormous floats with Renfrewshire’s young people – a giant animatronic ‘Witch and Cauldron’, a ‘Day of the Dead’ funeral scene, an illuminated ‘Witch and Mushroom Patch’ and interactive ‘Pumpkin Patch Man’ which will all be revealed in The Parade, the centre piece of the festival programme. Noel said: “It is fantastic that this year’s Halloween Festival is being designed and delivered with so much creative input from local young people. Their talents and skills will shine through, making this the best Halloween event to date. It’s brilliant.”

Scotland’s leading aerial dance theatre company, All or Nothing’s director, Jennifer Paterson explains, “We jumped at the chance to choreograph a piece involving 50 young people for the Flying Witches performance around Paisley Town Hall and Abbey. Celebrating Paisley’s witchy heritage, it will look spectacular to have witches swarm the Town Hall as aerialists fly 120 feet up in the air.”

The production and pyro experts at 21CC will transform the centre of Paisley using creative lighting, sound and flame effects. Company director, Geoff Crow, explained why they just had to get involved: “We simply love Paisley’s streetscape. The 850-year old Abbey, the Cloisters and the Gardens set the perfect scene for a spectacular lighting and sound spectacle. Creating amazing experiential events and bringing people together in celebration is what drives us and is exactly what Paisley’s Halloween Festival is all about.”

Other weekend highlights include top-class performers Spark LED drummers, Beltane Fire Society and Mr Wilson’s Second Liners on the live stage. As well as big screens around the town centre, a main stage showcasing amazing acts, funfair, and cinema screening of horror films will add to the packed programme. Plus, workshops, pumpkin carving, family-friendly activities and costume balls for all ages.

You can watch the Paisley Halloween Festival 2018 trailer here:

The full programme for the Paisley Halloween Festival 2018 is available at: https://paisley.is/featured_event/paisley-halloween-festival-2018/

The festival is part of Renfrewshire’s programme of winter events which also includes the annual Spree Festival (12 to 20 October) and Paisley Fireworks Spectacular (Saturday 3 November) and Christmas Lights Switch-on (Saturday 17 November).