Paisley and Renfrewshire Newsletter

New designs aimed at turning Paisley’s Abbey Close into an expanded outdoor events venue and improved public space have been published – and the public are being asked to give their views.

The planned changes will create a more attractive outdoor space around the town hall and Abbey, allowing people spend time in the shadows of two of the town’s most iconic buildings.

The work would see an expanded paved area in front of the town hall – removing the current ‘D’ shape – increasing the capacity for events such as the Halloween and Food and Drink festivals.

They also include new high-quality paving and lighting, removing some boundary walls to make the space more accessible and open, and adding new seating.

The proposed designs were based on feedback from an initial consultation in 2019 which asked the public what they wanted from Paisley town centre’s open spaces.

The statues of Alexander Wilson and Robert Tannahill would be repositioned but retained in prominent spots close to their current locations overlooking the town hall.

Residents and businesses can have their say on the proposed designs at www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/article/11209/Abbey-Close-public-consultation

The work is part of the wider push led by Renfrewshire Council to use culture and heritage to drive new footfall to the area, and includes the ongoing work to turn Paisley Museum into a world-class destination and Paisley Town Hall into a landmark entertainment venue.

The Abbey Close improvements are planned to be complete for the town hall reopening and will allow venue activity to expand outside into the space at the entrance to the building.

Renfrewshire Council leader Iain Nicolson said: “The last year has shown us that high-quality outdoor space will only be more important in future.

“While the major events were postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic, visitors to them and our reopened town hall will play a part in the area’s economic recovery in the years ahead.

“When we last asked the public’s views on Abbey Close in 2019 they told us they valued its architecture and scenery but felt it could be improved – the designs are based on that feedback.

“I would encourage members of the public to go to the council website, read more about the proposals, and let us know what they think”

Volunteers from across Renfrewshire are working together as they aim to inspire local people to take pride in where they live.

As part of Renfrewshire Council’s Team Up to Clean Up campaign, more than 1,500 volunteers took part in a litter pick in 2020 and removed an incredible 4,430 bags of litter from the local environment.

In addition to these bags, larger items of fly tipping such as tyres, trolleys or household waste have been actively reported to the council who have removed them as a priority through their StreetScene team.

In total, 707 litter picks took place by lone litter pickers, families, workplaces, schools and group events as communities continue to take pride in their neighbourhoods and encourage behaviour change from their fellow residents.

All volunteers are given health and safety advice, including adhering to the number of households they are able to meet under current restrictions, following physical distancing and only picking up what is safe to do – with any glass or similar items reported to the wardens service.

Volunteers continue to spring up across the area and Dargavel Village in Erskine is latest to benefit, with 15 new people joining the campaign since the beginning of the year.

Local volunteer Ross Baillie said: “When we moved to Dargavel, we wanted to be ‘net contributors’ and so picking up litter as part of Team Up to Clean Up seemed like a simple way to start that in our new neighbourhood.

“Some friends also started volunteering to do the same and each of us that does it talks about the sense of achievement when we have collected a bag.

“It is this sense of achievement that keeps us going back and picking more. Not only are we contributing to keeping our neighbourhood clean, we are supporting wildlife and our environment too.”

The campaign is joint initiative between the council and the community, with bibs, litter pickers and bags provided free of charge to volunteers and the rubbish collected cleared by the council as soon as possible after it takes place and posters put up in the area to showcase that it was tidied by volunteers.

The council continue to drive behaviour change through the campaign which tackles litter, recycling and dog fouling, as well as making a sustained investment in clearing drains and sweeping roads.

Councillor Cathy McEwan, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Infrastructure, Land and Environment Policy Board, said: “I’m always amazed at the level of enthusiasm and dedication that our volunteers have to make Renfrewshire a cleaner, better place to live, work and visit.

“The fact they’ve managed to remove so many bags of rubbish last year is incredible and sad at the same time, but hopefully the campaign is inspiring people not to drop rubbish and to take care of where they live.

“Our volunteers are a shining example of what our communities in Renfrewshire can be and we’ll continue to work alongside them to provide the support they need to take part in the campaign.”

More than 1,600 like-minded people have joined the campaign’s Facebook group to share ideas, seek support and showcase what they’re doing to improve their neighbourhood.

For more information on the campaign and how to get involved, visit www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/teamuptocleanup.

Imogen Stirling

Poet, musician and theatre-maker, Imogen Stirling, collaborates with youth arts charity CREATE Paisley, to help the young people of Renfrewshire express themselves through poetry. 

 

The internationally renowned writer, whose portfolio of work has been featured on Sky Arts will be taking up the mantle of writer in residence for this year’s Paisley Book Festival which is going digital for the first time.

Imogen Stirling

As part of Imogen’s role she’s working with CREATE Paisley to champion the role of creativity in the lives of young people and offer a chance to work alongside her on their own poetry and writing. Imogen’s work has seen her travel the world with sold out performances at the Prague and Edinburgh fringe as well as appearances at both the Eden and latitude festivals but with her 2020 touring schedule being ground to a halt by Covid-19 she is looking forward to supporting young people express themselves as part of the project.

 

I’ve always had a passion for working with young people and the opportunity to work with CREATE Paisley as part of my tenure as Writer in Residence is really exciting. During these tough times it is so important for young people to be able to express themselves and I am super excited to do that with them through my passion for poetry. I believe that using words and poetry in a relaxed environment can really help us to express our thoughts and explore emotions in a safe and healthy way and I am so looking forward to these workshops and hope to see as many people there as possible’’

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Imogen joins CREATE as part of their Teach Me Tuesday programme which will give young people the opportunity to take part in a series of free online creative writing workshops. Together, Imogen and the young people will use simple writing exercises, discussion, poetry readings and storytelling to explore how words can be used to express mindfulness and fun. With a view to looking forward to more hopeful times than 2020, the imagination will run wild with radical new futures and what we can learn from this tumultuous year. After having played around with various poetic techniques throughout the workshop, each participant will be encouraged to create their own short piece of writing which can be edited into a collective ballad and then presented during one of the Paisley Book Festival’s online events.

 

CREATE knows the importance of creativity in a young person’s life in terms of their mental health and academic attainment but also at this time, workshops like Imogen’s, play a much more important role. Brid Gallagher, Youth development worker at CREATE, has been working across the charities online programme since the start of lockdown and has seen first hand the effect that lockdown is having on young people’s lives: 

 

‘We work with so many young people who are struggling at the moment. The isolation and anxieties surrounding the pandemic are really having an effect on their well being and we have had many young people approach us who are struggling with depression and isolation. Workshops like Imogen’s give much needed structure and a chance to express their feelings in a safe and healthy way. We are so excited to be working with Imogen and  grateful for her giving our young people such a great opportunity to see their work being showcased at the Festival’s online events!’ 

 

The workshops are open to anyone aged between 12 and 21 and will start on Tuesday 26th of  January at 7pm. 

Open to all levels, with complete beginners very welcome!” To sign up visit www.createpaisley.org.uk/

A brand-new activity area is set to become one of the most sought-after play parks in Scotland when state-of-the-art equipment is installed for young people.

For the first time in a Scottish play park, equipment will include an interactive DJ booth, dance arch and activity zones offering various games on seven different screens that support learning and activity for all ages.

The new activity area in Bargarran, Erskine has been designed to be a central community resource, where groups and families can come together and socialise safely outdoors and is being created thanks to a £50,000 award from Renfrewshire Council’s Green Spaces, Parks and Play Areas and Villages Investment Fund.

Young people will be able to play their own music through interactive decks where they can learn to beat match and mix songs with their friends and peers.

A number of activity zones will also be set up around the play area with interactive games they can play individually or as a group, while a zip wire, seating areas, a shelter and outdoor gym equipment will also be available – all key asks from young people as part of a consultation run by Erskine Youth Council (EYC).

The Youth Council organise events, identify activities and develop opportunities to benefit young people in Erskine and deliver campaigns designed to create positive change for their whole community – and they will take a lead role in developing the play park into a social hub.

Graeme Wilson, EYC Treasurer, said: “We are over the moon that we received the additional £50k funding and can now go ahead with the building of the new Erskine activity area.

“This will bring about new and exciting ways for children, young people and their families to have fun and will also be an interactive play facility – the first of its kind in Scotland.

“EYC has been involved in picking the equipment to make sure it will fit the needs and wants of Erskine’s youth and going forward our Youth Council will look after the activity play area, making sure all the equipment is up and running as well as monitoring what games are being played and the settings of the DJ booth.

“We look forward to leading on fun outdoor group activities using the play area equipment once it is built and open to our community.”

Work to complete the project is expected to begin in March with the aim for it to be in place this summer – although construction will be subject to ongoing Coronavirus restrictions.

The latest funding adds to the £110,000 already allocated to the project by the Council to replace the former MUGA at the site of the new primary school joint campus in Bargarran.

Councillor Marie McGurk, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Communities, Housing and Planning Policy Board, said: “We’re delighted that we are able to provide significant funding to Erskine Youth Council to ensure that this new, interactive play area can be developed.

“It will be one of the standout play parks in the country thanks to the state-of-the-art equipment that is set to be installed and young people have been at the heart of the process every step of the way. I can’t wait to see their ideas become reality.

“The Green Spaces, Parks and Play Areas and Villages Investment Fund really has given local people of all ages the chance to change their community for the better and it’s great to see the difference that it is making across Renfrewshire.”

The activity area has been designed by working closely with leading outdoor play organisation Jupiter Play and the modern, interactive equipment was purchased from international playground equipment supplier Yalp.

Ian Smith, Regional Sales Manager at Jupiter Play, said: “It has been a pleasure to work with Renfrewshire Council. Designing play spaces that create a sense of wonder and engage an entire community is our aim as a business.

“I am delighted that we are delivering this really innovative project at Bargarran and the first one of its kind in Scotland as I know I will see people of all ages really benefitting from interactive play.

“It will be fantastic seeing people of all generations outside, having fun, staying active and socialising in their local park.”

For more information on the Green Spaces, Parks and Play Areas and Villages Investment Fund, including how to submit your application before the 31 March 2021 deadline, visit www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/greenspacesfund.

Paisley trust

it can be confirmed that Beyond Retail Property Fund Ltd – a UK managed real estate business, specialising in redeveloping retail property, has agreed the purchase of Marks & Spencer’s retail unit on Paisley High Street. The site, adjacent to The Paisley Centre, will be incorporated within the company’s wider regeneration plan which is expected to come forward in 2021.

Paisley trust

In November 2020, Reith Lambert announced that their client had purchased The Paisley Centre with a repurposing strategy to include a new residential quarter and a mixture of retail, leisure & commercial uses, together with new outdoor public spaces.

Richard Ford, Reith Lambert, said: “We are delighted that our client has agreed the purchase of the M&S unit on Paisley High Street. This unifies the ownership of what is effectively an integrated unit within the main centre.

“This represents a major opportunity for Paisley, and we will take time to work with our client and key partners to bring forward proposals which will help realise the spirit of the Vision for Paisley Town Centre 2030.”

In July 2020, M&S announced plans to close their Outlet store in Paisley and reinvest in a new M&S Foodhall at Renfrew Road Retail Park. The new site will be 30 per cent larger than the current Foodhall in the town centre.

David Bates, Head of Region at M&S, said: “We are pleased to confirm the sale of our current building on Paisley High Street, ahead of our relocation to a new M&S Foodhall site in Paisley.

“We are really excited to open our brand new M&S Foodhall in Paisley’s Renfrew Road Retail Park, which will provide a much larger food offer for the local community. The existing M&S store in Paisley will continue serving customers until the new store opens this summer.

Renfrewshire residents are being urged to ‘roll up their sleeves’ and get the Covid19 vaccine – as the locations for three large-scale vaccination centres in the area are confirmed.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde earlier today announced centres across the health board area, including at Paisley’s Lagoon Leisure Centre, Renfrew Leisure Centre and Johnstone Town Hall.

Renfrewshire Council is assisting the health board to operate all three locations – due to open on Monday 1 February and expected to handle thousands of residents a week over the coming months.

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And council leader Iain Nicolson is backing the Scottish Government’s ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’ campaign encouraging residents to take up the offer of a vaccine when they become eligible.

Vaccinations are currently being given in order of priority to care-home residents, frontline health and social care workers, and those aged 80 years and over.

The NHS will contact people directly with details of their appointment when they become eligible – there is no need to contact anyone.

Councillor Nicolson said: “Getting vaccinated is the best way we will have to stop the spread of Covid19, and protect you, your family and friends from a potentially deadly virus.

“The vaccine rollout will also eventually allow the government to start easing restrictions and getting life back to normal again, which I am sure everyone in Renfrewshire wants to see.

“We are pleased to be able to support the NHS with the operation of the vaccination centres, and I would urge people in the relevant groups to look out for their appointment letter.

“In the meantime, please stick with the rules and the guidance around face coverings, physical distancing and hand-washing to help stop the spread – and know there is light at end of the tunnel and what we are living through just now will not be forever.”

The rollout of the vaccine is following the priority list agreed by the Scottish Government and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), with those in older age groups and who are considered clinically vulnerable first in line.

The three local centres are among 16 across the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area. NHS staff will administer the vaccines and staff from Renfrewshire Council and Renfrewshire Leisure will help manage the buildings and with local arrangements.

They will initially be open six days a week and were chosen for their size, central locations and good transport links.

More information on how the three centres will work and how to get there is available on the council website at www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/coronavirus-vaccination-centres

For more information about the vaccine itself, see NHS Inform: www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/immunisation/vaccines/coronavirus-covid-19-vaccine

The Burns Caup, presented to the Paisley Burns Club in 1814, is one of several ‘relics’ to remain in Paisley Museum’s store this year as the Club moves its traditional celebrations online.

The caup or cup, was originally presented to the Club by James Armour brother-in-law to Robert Burns and was frequently used by the poet for celebratory toasts. It is on permanent loan by the Paisley Burns Club to the museum, on the understanding that each year the caup, the original gavel used to call the proceedings, and the Club’s snuff box can be used at their annual dinner, and then returned to the museum for safekeeping and display. Unfortunately COVID-19 restrictions have limited access to the museum’s collections this year, and in a break with tradition, the Club’s ‘relics’ will remain in the museum’s Secret Collection and will not be used.

As well as local enthusiasm for his poems and songs, Burns is tied to Paisley through his wife Jean Armour who lived there for two months in 1786. She had been removed to the town by her father to avoid scandal as she was pregnant with Burns’ child and the couple only had an informal marriage agreement in place. Her brother James was admitted as an honorary member of the Paisley Burns Club in 1818 in ‘respect of his kindness’ in gifting the caup.

Paisley Burns Club was originally founded on 29 January 1805 at the behest of weaver-poet Robert Tannahill and is reputed to be the oldest club in the world. Having lapsed in members after 1836, it wasn’t until 1874 that it was fully revived. When the Club met again in 1875, almost 40 years later, it wasn’t weavers and friends of Tannahill who ran the proceedings, it was eminent townsmen including thread manufacturer Sir Peter Coats, historian David Semple, and artist James Elder Christie who was passionate about Burns and often attended as a guest.

Paisley Museum holds the largest collection of works by artist and Burns’ enthusiast James Elder Christie (1847-1914) in the world. He attended the meeting of the Paisley Burns Club when it was revived in 1875, and was a central figure in Burns’ celebrations in London in the 1870s. Christie was originally born in Fife and went to art school in Paisley. He was gregarious and moved in elite art circles, a founding member of Chelsea Arts Club and a member of the New English Art Club. He also founded the Paisley-Renfrewshire Society in London which was a celebration of all things Paisley (and by extension, of Scottish national heroes). Christie was by all accounts hugely passionate about the work of Robert Burns, and the immense power he showed in recitals of Tam O’Shanter and the Address to a Haggis awarded him the title of ‘brilliant interpreter’ and illustrator of Burns’ work.

Dr Victoria Irvine, Curator of Art at Renfrewshire Leisure said:

“Christie’s passion for Burns is well documented and during his time in Paisley he attended many meetings of the Club where he would recite the works of Burns with immense enthusiasm. His artworks depicting scenes from Burns’ poems are held in our collections today and show the depth to which he understood and admired the poet.”

Councillor Lisa-Marie Hughes, Chair of Renfrewshire Leisure, said:
Paisley Museum’s collections and the relationship with our local community are incredibly important. The historical objects in our collection and in our care, illustrate the area’s rich culture and Paisley’s story. The redevelopment of the museum will not only increase the number of objects on display by 100%, but it will enable the objects’ stories to be reinterpreted, and retold in a way that is as engaging and meaningful for locals and visitors alike.”

Paisley Museum is part of the town’s radical regeneration plan, and the redesign of the campus is led by an international team including architects AL_A and exhibition designers Opera Amsterdam. When it reopens it is expected to attract over 125,000 visits each year and provide a £79 million economic boost to the area over the next 30 years.

Paisley Museum Reimagined is supported by Renfrewshire Council, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund. The museum’s final phase of fundraising is now under way, with the museum website reimagined.paisleymuseum.org showcasing the project’s ambitious vision.

An unused pavilion in Howwood Public Park could be brought back to life for the local community as councillors get set to a consider an application for a Community Asset Transfer.

Friends of Howwood Park are seeking to take over the pavilion on a 10-year lease, with the aim of refurbishing it and bringing it back into community use.

They plan to carry out a full refurbishment of the building, as well as adding a disabled toilet and baby changing area.

Once complete, the group are aiming for it to be used as a changing facility for local teams using the adjacent football pitch, which has also been brought back into use, and as a social hub for parkgoers, such as local walking groups and youth clubs.

The group have already transformed the play park in Howwood Park with new, inclusive play equipment including new swings, a zip slide, roundabout, climbing frame and bike ramps, assisted by a £50,000 award from the Council’s Green Spaces, Parks and Play Areas and Villages Investment Fund – and visitors numbers have significantly increased.

Gillian Whyte, Friends of Howwood Park, said: “During the pandemic, Howwood Park has been a phenomenal asset for the village, as it has provided a great space for children to meet up and play, for adults to connect with other adults in a safe environment, and for outdoor exercise.

“The re-opening of the pavilion will take this surge in use to another level as it will attract even more people to the park on a regular basis. Once Coronavirus restrictions allow, it will provide a place from where light refreshments can be bought, a toilet facility, a baby changing facility, storage space for equipment which we can use to hold events, and a base for local groups to meet, including local football teams. It will open a host of new opportunities for activities at Howwood Park”.

The park has also benefitted from council investment in the drainage system, new paths and fencing around the perimeter.

If their application is successful, the group plan to apply to Renfrewshire Council’s Community Empowerment Fund to support the refurbishment of the pavilion.

Councillor Cathy McEwan, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Infrastructure, Land and Environment Policy Board, said: “We’re always keen to support and empower local people where possible and I look forward to the application for a Community Asset Transfer being considered by the board.”

For more information on community empowerment in Renfrewshire, including funding opportunities, visit www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/communityempowerment.

Paisley Grammar-high-res

Plans to move Paisley Grammar School to a new-build community campus on the town’s Renfrew Road has been approved by councillors.

At the recent Education and Children’s Services Policy Board (Thursday 21 January), councillors agreed to the move the school to land formerly home to Chivas after considering officer’s recommendations and the consultation responses from parents, pupils and the wider school community.

The consultation, which took place in September and October last year, showed an overall support for the proposals. Consultation responses were received through an online survey, letters, and two virtual public meetings – with the responses published on the council’s website.

Officers from Education Scotland also examined the consultation and concluded that the proposal ‘has clear educational benefits’ and ‘the potential to provide a high-quality learning environment’.

Councillor Jim Paterson, convener of the Education and Children’s Services Policy Board, said: “Making sure all pupils have the best learning environment possible is a big priority for us. It’s clear that the current Paisley Grammar School building isn’t able to provide the modern facilities that pupils need, so It is fantastic news that proposals to move the school to a purpose-built new community campus has now been approved.

“I know many people are incredibly fond of the Paisley Grammar School building and I can assure you that we want the building’s heritage to be maintained after it stops functioning as a school.

“I would like to thank everyone who took part in the public consultation last year and can assure you all views expressed have been taken into account.”

The new community campus will move pupils and staff to a modern facility with outdoor areas, state-of-the-art technology, and high-quality media, drama and sports facilities not possible on the current site.

It was confirmed in December that Paisley Grammar was one of 25 schools across Scotland to receive funding from the Scottish Government’s £1bn Learning Estate Investment Programme, which – along with money already set aside by the council – would help fund the new building.

Council officers will now start work on the next stages of this project, which will include working with all concerned on traffic management – a concern raised in the consultation.

The Council took ownership of the bulk of the former Chivas site in Paisley in December 2020 and as part of site preparations, is seeking specialist advice from architects to determine if it should retain the main office building, which was built in 1964, in line with the school campus development.

It is estimated that the earliest a new community campus will be completed is 2025.

 

Anne Pitcher, professional storyteller.docx AP

Viewers of Paisley & District U3A’s 4 February online meeting at 2pm are invited to join renowned Scottish oral storyteller, Anne Pitcher.  They’ll leave the cares of the world behind and join Anne on a storytelling journey that will transport them to other places and times.  People are welcome to ask questions and have a chat.

Anne Pitcher, professional storyteller.docx AP

U3A chair, Kathy O’Donnell remarked: “Scotland has a longstanding oral storytelling tradition.  Indeed, well known writers like Robert Louis Stevenson and Walter Scott are celebrated the world over.  Our members can enjoy hearing stories being told, according to the Scottish Travellers’ old proverb, “Eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart.”

Anne Pitcher, who is on the Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland’s Directory of professional storytellers said: “Scotland has such a rich history of oral storytelling rooted deep in its past.  Storytellers traditionally shared folklore, myths, legends and historical tales.  Today oral storytelling is a vibrant and active art form in Scottish culture, and one which I’m proud to be part of.”

Details on how to view this free live talk are on:https://u3asites.org.uk/paisley/welcome