Paisley’s annual festival of music, comedy and more gets under way tonight – with a special tribute to one of the town’s most famous musical sons, Gerry Rafferty.
The Baker St singer’s legacy will be honoured with a sold-out Gerry Rafferty Songbook night fronted by Roddy Hart, Emma Pollock and Gerry’s long-time friend and former Stealers Wheel collaborator Rab Noakes.
The show kicks off nine days of Spree action – the bulk of which will take place in a specially-erected Spiegeltent next to Paisley Gilmour Street station in the town’s County Square.
The Spree festival is now in its eighth year and has helped Paisley become established as one of Scotland’s go-to destinations for major events.
The festival is organised by Renfrewshire Council, programmed by Regular Music, and sponsored by Tennent’s Lager.
Many of the shows are already sold out but there’s still time to get your hands on the last remaining tickets for others at www.thespree.co.uk, in person at the box office at InCube shop at 9b Gilmour St, or on the door at The Spiegeltent.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s show, musician, broadcaster and long-time Rafferty fan Roddy Hart said: “We are super-excited and looking forward to kicking off the Spree festival with a collection of Gerry Rafferty’s best-loved songs.
“The Spree is an amazing festival – it’s great to have these events outside of Glasgow and Edinburgh as it brings music and talent to whole array of people who might not have access to it otherwise. There’s a fantastic selection of singers and artists and it’s a very exciting thing to be part of.”
The Spree opening night also includes late-night comedy including Fred MacAulay and Mark Nelson in The Spiegeltent, with tickets still available at the door.
Saturday will see the town centre invaded by the Mods as the annual ModStuff event run by local promoters LNP Promotions returns with a free afternoon show – including the ever-popular scooter rideout – followed by a sold-out evening gig.
Rising stars of Scottish indie-rock The Snuts play The Spiegeltent on Sunday evening – with all tickets for the 450-capacity venue being snapped up in just two hours earlier this summer.
Highlights during the week include Hue and Cry (Mon 14th), Glasvegas only UK full-band show of the year (Tues 15th), former Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys (Wed 16th) and soul legend PP Arnold, performing alongside Ocean Colour Scene guitarist Steve Cradock (Thur 17th).
Next weekend sees Karine Polwart’s Scottish Songbook, and more late-night comedy featuring Scott Gibson and Gary Little (Fri 18th) before a lively last night with comedian Jerry Sadowitz followed by a closing party with the inventors of rockgrass Hayseed Dixie (Sat 19th).
Paisley Arts Centre will also host a diverse programme including Lost Map’s Lost Weekend (Sun 13th) with the Pictish Trail, a Paisley in Song night fronted by Michael Cassidy (Thurs 17th), and a show by ex-Arab Strap mainman Malcolm Middleton (Sat 19th).
The week will also see The Wee Spree – a special programme designed for kids to run over the October school week, featuring Lego, circus skills, comedy, and dance-along Disney films.
Sold-out shows include the Stramash ceilidh with local Gaelic music group Fèis Phaislig – promoting the town’s contribution to Gaelic language culture ahead of hosting the Royal National Mòd in exactly three years time.
And the Spree for All fringe festival will take the show on the road to towns and villages across Renfrewshire, with gigs taking place in local venues in Johnstone, Renfrew, Lochwinnoch and Kilbarchan, as well as a packed programme in Paisley’s Bungalow Bar and Old Swan Inn.
The Spree for All also takes in the Paisley Art Institute’s 131st annual exhibition – this year taking place in a formerly-empty unit in the Piazza shopping centre (right next to The Spiegeltent) while Paisley Museum is undergoing a £42m transformation.
Louisa Mahon, Renfrewshire Council’s head of communications, marketing and events, said: “The Spree has grown year on year with Paisley now firmly established as a key destination on Scotland’s festival map.
“Ticket sales this year have been by far our best yet – we look forward to welcoming thousands of visitors to Paisley over the next nine days, which will be great news for local traders.
“Paisley town centre is home to many great places to eat, drink and shop and we and would encourage festival-goers to Spend Local and sample everything the town has to offer.”
The Spree is the first of a bumper run of major events in the area this winter, with huge crowds expected for Paisley Halloween Festival – one of the largest of its kind – on 25-26 October.
Paisley’s annual fireworks display is on Saturday 2 November, followed by Christmas Lights Switch-ons in Paisley (Sat 16th), Renfrew (Sat 23rd) and Johnstone (Sat 30th), while local business improvement district Paisley First’s annual Winterfest event will take over Paisley town centre for five weeks from 24 November.