The chief executive who transformed Renfrewshire Leisure into a multi-million pound business creating jobs and new facilities has announced she is to retire.

Joyce McKellar, 56, who has been chief executive since 2005, will step down from her role at the end of October. The position will be advertised later this month.

With the recent birth of her first grandchild and the health of her father deteriorating, Joyce had decided to spend more time with her family.

She explains: “I have been with Renfrewshire Leisure for 13 years and in that time I’ve been proud of the way the organisation has grown to provide hugely expanded sport, leisure and cultural facilities.

“I now think it’s time for me to concentrate more on family matters and I want to help with my father’s care and spend more time with my grandchild.

“Health and well-being will always be important to me and I’ll now also have more time to up my fitness regime by doing more cycling, running and swimming.”

Joyce has spent 38 years service with local government and leisure trusts and since she became chief executive of Renfrewshire Leisure, the number of people employed has risen from 250 to almost 800 and the annual turnover doubled from £6 million to £19 million.

She has led major changes in the organisation, which includes the transfer of cultural and sports services from Renfrewshire Council to the leisure trust.

Joyce was also seconded to the council to lead the development of their leisure facilities strategy, which saw a £42 million investment in building a brand new sports and leisure centre – The ON-X, in Linwood – and the creation of a new sports hub, in Johnstone.

Chairperson of Renfrewshire Leisure’s board of trustees, Councillor Lisa-Marie Hughes said: “Joyce has been a fantastic chief executive for Renfrewshire Leisure and the people of Renfrewshire.

“It’s thanks to her forward thinking, expertise and determination that we have seen such huge improvements in sports and leisure facilities locally.

“She has modernised and expanded sports and leisure services in Renfrewshire in the face of increased competition from the private sector.

“Joyce will leave an organisation that is fit for purpose and thanks to her efforts, whoever picks up the baton as the new chief executive will be starting from a high point as they take the company forward.”

Fitness fans certainly kept their cool when they took part in a marathon aerobics session to raise money for charity.

They took part of their Six-Hour Sweat Sesh outdoors in the sunshine at the ON-X, in Linwood and were cooled down by being sprayed with water from a hose.

Around 60 people took part in the Sweat Sesh as part of Renfrewshire Leisure’s annual fundraising effort for St Vincent’s and ACCORD hospices, which sees different charity sporting events being staged.

Charlie McDougall, senior facilities manager at Renfrewshire Leisure who organises the charity events said:
“It was scorching the day we had our Six Hour Sweat Sesh in the ON-X, so we took some of the exercises outdoor. And to make sure no one was suffering too much from the heat we sprayed them with water from a hose.

“It was great fun and thanks to everyone who took part.”

Footballers in Paisley will have a new all-weather surface to play on when the new season kicks off later this summer – after the pitch at the Ferguslie Sports Centre was relaid.

Renfrewshire Council funded the pitch upgrade as the first stage of a £7.7m project to transform the facilities at the nearby St James Playing Fields over the next few years.

The work at the Ferguslie facility – just off Blackstoun Road – saw the replacement of the previous surface, which had been in use for more than 15 years.

It had its big-match debut at the weekend when it hosted the annual No Substitute for Life football tournament – organised to raise awareness of issues surrounding suicide – with hundreds turning out for the popular 7-a-side event.

The new pitch was paid for from a budget set aside for a wider investment at St James over the next few years to include improved grass pitches, a synthetic hockey pitch, and a new pavilion and changing facilities, plus improved access road and car parking.

There will also be work to develop the site to host large-scale outdoor cultural events from the expanded programme of festivals and cultural activity expected over the next few years.

The St James investment is itself part of a much-bigger £100m programme to transform Paisley’s cultural venues as part of the legacy of Paisley’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2021.

That includes the £42m project to turn Paisley Museum into an international-class destination based around the town’s unique textile heritage and collections, major internal redevelopments of Paisley Town Hall and Arts Centre, a new learning and cultural hub on the High Street, and investment in town centre public spaces and transport links.

Among the spectators at the No Substitute for Life event was Councillor Lisa-Marie Hughes, chair of Renfrewshire Leisure, which operates Ferguslie Sports Centre and St James Playing Fields.

She said: “The new surface is looking great and it was good to see it in use at the weekend – particularly for such a well-attended and important event as No Substitute for Life.

“The investment at Ferguslie means there is a new surface available in that area while we develop the plans to upgrade St James.

“The council is investing in our sporting facilities now and over the next few years because we value the importance of healthy lives but also as part of the ongoing work to make the area a more attractive place to live, work and invest.

“As well as becoming a top-class sporting destination, St James will also be able to host large-scale outdoor cultural events – such as gigs or music festivals – which complements the investment in our historic town centre venues and attractions.

“That work is in turn part of a much bigger effort to use what makes Paisley and Renfrewshire unique to sell the area as a destination and drive new footfall to our town centres.”

Paisley Central Library will be moving to a temporary home in the town centre – ahead of a new state-of-the-art facility opening on the High Street.

The library has to leave its current home next to Paisley Museum in September when the building closes for a £42m revamp to turn the museum into an international-class destination based around the town’s unique textile heritage and collections.

Library provision will move to a new learning and cultural hub at 22 High Street by 2021, with a temporary library to be built next to the Lagoon leisure centre and due to open in January 2019.

The modular building will take over part of the facility’s south car park – currently used by council staff – and will house the most popular books and services, plus some public access PCs.

In the meantime, library users will be able to access the same services at Foxbar, Glenburn, Ferguslie and Ralston libraries, as well as a wide range of e-books.

A number of public-access PCs will be made available from September at 5 High Street to ensure jobseekers and others requiring internet access can continue to get online.

The hugely-popular Bookbug sessions will move to the main Lagoon building until the end of the year until the temporary library is ready.

The heritage centre – where the public can access family and local history records – is set to decamp to a new home in Mile End Mill in Seedhill Road over the winter and will stay for four years until moving back into the museum when it reopens in 2022.

The moves are part of Renfrewshire Council’s £100m investment in venues and infrastructure over the next few years, central to a wider plan to use the town’s unique heritage and cultural assets to transform its future.

The new learning and cultural hub will bring back into use a long-term vacant building on the High Street and create a modern library facility and educational resource for residents, pupils and students.

Councillor Lisa-Marie Hughes, chair of Renfrewshire Leisure, said: “The £100m investment in Paisley’s venues and infrastructure over the next few years will preserve the future of some of our best-loved heritage buildings by turning them into modern community facilities, while helping us attract new events and visitors, and driving footfall to the town centre.

“When the new learning and cultural hub opens in 2021 it will be a flexible, fully-accessible and digitally-connected space for pupils, students and residents of all ages to use.

“At the same time, the space vacated by the current library will allow the museum to expand and showcase our unique history and collections to a much wider audience than we can at present.

“But to achieve that, there will be a period of disruption over the next couple of years – and we will be ready to work with businesses and residents to minimise the impact of that.

“The temporary library at the Lagoon will be smaller in size than the current one, but will be designed to allow the most popular items and services to be easily accessed there.

“And while there will be a gap of a few weeks between the current building shutting and the temporary one opening, there will be lots of ways to access library services in the interim – from our online catalogue, to our other libraries at Ralston, Ferguslie, Glenburn and Foxbar, to the extra public PCs we are putting in place.”

The council’s investment in Paisley’s cultural infrastructure aims to build on the momentum of the town’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2021 by making it a key destination for visitors and events and equipping it to host a planned expansion of activity over the next few years.

The £42m museum revamp will create an international-class destination showcasing the town’s unique heritage and collections, predicted to bring around 125,000 visitors a year to the town centre.

Other big projects as part of the same programme include a £22m transformation of the interior of Paisley Town Hall to create one of the West of Scotland’s key entertainment venues, an upgrade of Paisley Arts Centre, major investment in town centre outdoor spaces and transport links, and new sporting facilities and events space at St James Playing Fields.

The plans build on the investment already made in the publicly-accessible museum store Paisley: The Secret Collection, opened last year on the town’s High Street, and the launch of the new destination brand and website at

The new learning and cultural hub is being delivered by the council in partnership with Hub West Scotland – part of a Scottish-wide Government initiative, led by the Scottish Futures Trust, which forms a public-private partnership to develop community infrastructure projects, providing value for money and community benefits, for public-sector bodies.

For more info on library services, visit

Youngsters are being encouraged to get up to all kinds of mischief…by taking part in this year’s Summer Reading Challenge.

Summer Reading Challenge at Paisley Library 26.10.18

The theme of this year’s Tesco Bank-sponsored Summer Reading Challenge is Mischief Makers and features characters, Dennis the Menace, Gnasher and their friends from the Beano comic.

Renfrewshire Libraries are encouraging youngsters to pay them a visit and take part in the Summer Reading Challenge by borrowing and reading six books of their choice and be given stickers and rewards the more books they read.

Summer Reading Challenge at Paisley Library 26.10.18

Local author, Lindsay Littleson was at Paisley’s Central Library to encourage kids to take part and tell them about her latest book, A Pattern of Secrets.

It’s free to take part in the Summer Reading Challenge and youngsters can also take part in a hunt for buried treasure by exploring their map of Beanotown.

Youngsters who complete the Summer Reading Challenge will also be entered into a prize draw to win cinema tickets. All of Renfrewshire Leisure’s 12 libraries and its Skoobmobile each have a pair of tickets to the movies as prizes, which have been donated by Paisley-based facilities maintenance company, Consilium Contracting Services.

Chairperson of Renfrewshire Leisure’s board of trustees, Councillor Lisa-Marie Hughes said: “The Summer Reading Challenge is an exciting way to encourage young people to read books.

“I hope parents and carers will encourage children to pay their local library a visit and as well as borrowing books they want to read, they can have some fun as well.”

Super-fit great-gran Jean Whelan has become a legend at the gym where she trains three times week.

The energetic 84-year-old could put many men and women half her age to shame with a workout that includes tackling a full circuit on the latest equipment around.
Jean defies the stereotype of the old age pensioner with her attitude and determination to stay forever young, fit and healthy through exercise.
Every Monday, Thursday and Friday she dons her trainers and heads to Pro-Life Fitness Centre in Paisley where she is put through her paces under the watchful eye of her champion bodybuilding son Alex – who just happens to be 62.
And she doesn’t expect or want to get off lightly as she works on the various up-to-the-minute machines to strengthen her back, arms and chest one day and legs and shoulders the next.
It is a rigorous routine but it puts a smile on her face because it’s helping her cope with life without her husband of 60 years and the loneliness that can bring – even if you have a loving caring family around you. 
Jean, who lives in a flat in the South End of the town, said: “The gym isn’t just for the young ones. It’s for people of all ages. Look at me. I’m loving it. I can’t wait to get my trainers on and head down there.
“I’m sure when some of my neighbours see me heading off with my kit they think I’m nuts but I feel good. I enjoy pushing myself and achieving what I can to the best of my abilities.
“I was diagnosed with arthritis in my back years ago and used to think I would end up in wheelchair one day but the exercises have helped with the pain and my back is improving.
“It’s not only the physical benefits of training I enjoy it’s the mental health advantages too. I lost my husband two years ago and it was awful. I missed him so much.
“I would be sitting there thinking Alex Snr should be here with me and despite all the care and attention in the world from my family I felt lonely. I was sad and could easily have just hidden away.
Jean went on: “I’m glad I didn’t. Coming down here has helped me so much. It keeps me fit, the staff and members are like one big family. I feel like the Queen some days as so many people wave to me and I wave back.
“My message to anyone out there hesitating about coming along to the gym for whatever reason – whether it’s confidence, age, weight issues, lack of fitness or ability – is forget all of that. Just take that first step.”
Well known son Alex, who opened his first gym in Espedair Street, 28 years ago, and gave over the running of Pro-Life Fitness Centre to Renfrewshire Sports Charity still volunteers there helping people of all abilities and from many different sports and none achieve their goals.
The seven times Scottish Body Building Champion and British Masters Body Building Champion, said: ”My mum works on 14 different machines using a programme specially developed for her. It’s something our trained staff  do for anyone here.
“In her case, and at her age, it is all about preventive maintenance using weight resistance equipment. She’s incredibly fit, has a smile on her face and has become a star at the gym. She really is an inspiration.
“Our doors are open to everyone-no matter age or ability- and we will give expert guidance to anyone who wants to come along and see what we’re all about. 
“There’s no pressure to be the best, to work at a certain pace, outdo anyone else. We’re here for everyone and I’m just lucky my mum is such an inspiration to everyone who walks through the doors of the centre.”
Pro-Life, based in New Sneddon Street, is offering a free day pass to any senior who would like to take that first move to a fitter, healthier, happier lifestyle. Just call 0141-889-5027 to organise.

Sports, leisure and culture staff have shown they have star quality.

The annual Renfrewshire Leisure Star Awards ceremony, hosted by Clyde 1 radio presenter, Gina McKie was held at Johnstone Town Hall and variety of awards were handed out to staff working in local sports centres, swimming pools, libraries, museum and community halls.

The Chief Executive’s Award for Outstanding Achievement was presented to Emma Armstrong, a technician from Paisley Arts Centre.

The Team of the Year Award went to the organisation’s Commercial Services Supervisors, this included Katie Sweeney, Jennifer Ann Northcote, Moira Orr and Sara McClure.

The Partnership Award, for working with outside companies and organisations was won by Anne Kemp, from the libraries service.

The Noble Award – in memory of popular leisure manager, Gerry Noble who died last year – was won by Shannon Ferguson from the commercial services team.

There were also certificates presented to staff for five years perfect attendance, 35 years service, those who had completed training courses and young people completing modern apprenticeships.

Renfrewshire Leisure chief executive, Joyce McKellar said: “We’re paying tribute to the most important asset we have at Renfrewshire Leisure and that is our staff.

“We’re fortunate to have so many skilled, enthusiastic people dedicated to providing the best sports, leisure and cultural services for the people of Renfrewshire.”

SCHOOL pupils are to receive a boost with thousands of pounds worth of new sports equipment being provided for local schools by Renfrewshire Leisure.

The new kit is being provided as part of Renfrewshire Leisure’s Active Schools programme that provides hundreds of youngsters with extra-curricular sports sessions held in schools and sports centres.

Chief executive of Renfrewshire Leisure, Joyce McKellar said: “Encouraging young people to take part in sports activities is an important part of the work we, along with sportscotland do in Renfrewshire schools.

“The new sports equipment will make sure pupils have a wide variety of sporting activities to choose from.

Joyce explained that it’s not just pupils who benefit from the Active Schools programme in Renfrewshire. Volunteers helping run the programme are also given training in sport and leisure, gaining qualifications that mean they can apply for jobs in the sector.

“We’re delivering a high quality Active Schools programme to pupils in Renfrewshire with fully-trained staff. And with our volunteers receiving training and being able to gain qualifications, we’re also providing a pathway to employment for them.”

Renfrewshire Council is the first local authority in Scotland where councillors across all parties have signed up to participate in Dementia Friends Scotland sessions.

Elected members at the local authority have committed to become Dementia Friends, joining tens of thousands across Scotland, to learn more about dementia and the small things you can do to help people with the condition.

The initiative has attracted cross party support, and the sessions, run by charity Alzheimer Scotland, are understood to be the first uptake across an entire Council chamber.

It’s part of a move towards being a ‘dementia friendly’ council and Council Leader Iain Nicolson said: “Many of us will know people affected by dementia and Alzheimer’s and the challenges they and their families can face. By attending the Dementia Friends sessions, we want to make sure we do all we can to understand and support those with dementia, and support communities trying to create a kind and friendly environment that ensures people continue to feel valued and supported.
“It’s an issue that sadly affects almost every family in Scotland and one in which we all want to play our part in helping in whatever small way we can, regardless of political affiliations.”

Dementia isn’t an inevitable part of ageing but is caused by diseases of the brain. There are around 90,000 people living with the condition in Scotland, with more than 3,000 under the age of 65. In Renfrewshire around 2,750 people have dementia and related conditions.

More than half of Scots with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease but other forms include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia.

The village of Lochwinnoch has become the first in Renfrewshire to become a dementia friendly community. It is introducing ways of ensuring that those with the condition can feel supported as they go about their everyday lives.

Senior primary school children in the village, which has around 3,000 residents, have attended awareness sessions and local businesses want to support those with the condition to ensure they can remain part of the community.
A steering group set up has organised events like tea dances where people with dementia and their carers can come and feel supported.
Organiser Dr Morag Thow said: “We are trying to encourage people with dementia to stay part of the community and live the lives they want. It’s part of being a kind community and it’s great to feel supported by a kind council.
“It can be a simple as the way shops arrange their displays and signage. A person with dementia might have trouble reading a sign that says ‘Ladies’ but would recognise the picture of a loo. They can also have problems with colour and working out light and shade.
“There are things we can all do – if you meet someone and you know they have dementia you just take your time with them and offer them assistance.
“It’s also demystifying it – people with dementia can and do lead very active lives. They just have limitations with memory, especially in the early stages.
“I would say that most families are affected by dementia, whether it’s somebody actually in your own family or somebody you know who has a relative with it.”

Anne McWhinnie, Dementia Friends Programme Manager at Alzheimer Scotland said: “We’re delighted that Renfrewshire Council have made the commitment to become Dementia Friends. Alzheimer Scotland believes that nobody should face dementia alone. By taking the time to understand a little of what it’s like to live with dementia, and the little ways in which we can be more helpful and patients, we can make a real difference in our communities.”

Additional Information for Dementia Friends release

It should be noted for the purposes of captioning pictures with this release, that many of the people in pictures do not have dementia but are part of the wider supportive community and/or friends, family and relatives of those who do.

Picture caption: Members

An exhibition at Paisley Museum shows the intricate art of creating pictures from etching.
Etching as a printing method is thought to go as far back as the 15th century and the exhibition features artwork creating by several different forms of the process.

A selection of Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture prints created by etching is now on show at Paisley Museum in a free exhibition, which goes on until June 24.

The exhibition, Ages of Wonder – Art of Etching, includes prints from artists like Alexander Runciman and David Wilkie to Elizabeth Blackadder and Will Maclean.

Visitors can see the best Scottish printmaking of the last two centuries from the RSA’s Recognised Collection of National Significance along with new prints created by contemporary artists.

Joyce McKellar, chief executive of Renfrewshire Leisure said: “The prints created from etching that are on display at Paisley Museum are absolutely stunning.

“You can’t help but admire the skill and expertise of the artists and the exhibition is well worth seeing.”