Tag Archive for: john byrne

Provost & John Byrne 4.3.22--2

One of Paisley’s most famous sons – artist and playwright John Byrne – will be honoured in the new room names for his birthplace’s soon-to-be-transformed town hall.

When the A-listed Victorian building reopens next year after a £22m refurbishment, new and existing rooms will carry names inspired by John’s play Cuttin’ a Rug, set in the town hall.

Provost & John Byrne 4.3.22--2

The news comes in the same week John’s latest play – Underwood Lane, inspired by his time growing up in Paisley with childhood friend Gerry Rafferty – receives its world premiere in Renfrewshire.

Paisley Town Hall is currently being turned into a landmark entertainment venue, with new facilities and rooms added – such as a new bar overlooking the river, a digital lounge with big screen, and a dance studio in formerly-unused space on the upper floor.

The new names were chosen after a process led by Renfrewshire’s Provost Lorraine Cameron, who wanted the modernised building to reflect the town’s heritage in a fresh way, and picked after engagement with local community groups and other elected members

The bar will be Lucille’s Lounge, The Loggia will be known as the Loom Loggia, the digital lounge will be called Cutting Room and the dance studio will be Spinning Shed.

The other meeting and conference rooms will be known as Skinnedar Suite, McCann Room, Stobo Room and Jacquard Suite. The main hall will continue to be known as the main hall.

Provost at Townhall

Lucille, Skinnedar, McCann and Stobo are all names of characters from Cuttin’ a Rug – set during a works night out in the town hall and part of John Byrne’s acclaimed Slab Boys trilogy, based on his own experiences of working in Stoddard’s carpet factory in Elderslie as a young man.

Loom, Cutting, Spinning and Jacquard are all equipment or techniques which reflect Paisley’s rich weaving history.

Provost Cameron – who earlier this year awarded the Freedom of Renfrewshire to John – said: “Paisley Town Hall is a special place for all Buddies, and each of us will have our own links to and memories of it.

“The work happening now will keep this beautiful building at heart of local life and preserve its much-loved architectural features, but with new facilities allowing it to host bigger and better events and more uses, bringing new life and footfall into the town, day and night.

“I want to thank everyone who helped contribute to the process of renaming the rooms, as there were loads of great ideas, but we were able to boil it down to two.

“Paisley has always been home to great cultural innovators – and John Byrne is one of the best. It’s fitting that in the year he is awarded the Freedom of Renfrewshire that we can ensure one of his best-loved works, Cuttin’ a Rug, is permanently marked in the building in which it is set.

“At the same time, the Paisley Pattern and the weaving and thread-making industries took Paisley’s name around the world, and the prosperity that flowed from there helped fund the town hall and other local landmarks, so it’s only appropriate we reflect that in the new room names.

“These names will keep the town’s heritage alive as they form the backdrop for future generations of Buddies to make their own special memories of the town hall in the decades to come.”

The town hall work is being taken forward by Renfrewshire Council as part of a wider investment in the town’s cultural venues, including the transformation of Paisley Museum into a world-class venue, and the work to build a new home for library services in a once-empty High Street unit.

When it reopens in 2023, the town hall will be operated by OneRen and will be bookable for a range of large and small events. For more info, call 0300 300 1210 or email OneRen_eventhires@renfrewshire.gov.uk

Underwood Lane is a co-production between the Tron Theatre Company and OneRen, supported by Future Paisley – the wide-ranging programme of activity led by Renfrewshire Council which aims to use Paisley’s rich cultural story to transform its future. It will run at Johnstone Town Hall from 7 to 9 July and at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow from 14 to 30 July.

The play was originally due to be performed in 2020, but was delayed due to the Covid pandemic. It follows a skiffle band as they try to make it to the big time and is named after the street in which Gerry Rafferty grew up. Tickets are fully sold out.


JOHN Byrne could have ended up playing in a skiffle band like the hero of his latest musical play, Underwood Lane.

But his performing career never really got off the ground because he could only ever play three chords on his Epiphone ‘Elvis Presley’ guitar and his first love was always going to be drawing and painting.

Byrne has revealed that during his time mixing powdered paint in the slab room of the Stoddard’s Carpet Factory, in Elderslie, he used to take an unofficial break from working when his gaffer wasn’t around to practise on a second-hand banjo.

He then bought himself an ‘Elvis Presley’ guitar for £15 – which in the early 1960s was a princely sum – that he spent hours practising on.

Byrne is reminiscing, as the cast prepare for the Underwood Lane show’s sold out world premier, at Johnstone Town Hall, on Thursday, July 7, 8 and 9.

The play is in memory of Byrne’s long-time friend and fellow Paisley Buddie, Gerry Rafferty, who died nine years ago and was born and spent his early years living in Underwood Lane, in the town.

The show, a co-production between the Tron Theatre Company and OneRen, is set in the late Fifties and early Sixties telling the story of pals, Dessie, Donnatella and Joey, who form a skiffle band and try to make the big time. It’s also a tale of fierce love rivalry, broken hearts, dodgy dealing, sex and death.

The show, directed by Andy Arnold, was originally to be staged two years ago, at Paisley Arts Centre, but Covid caused its postponement and now the Arts Centre is undergoing a major refurbishment as part of Renfrewshire Council’s capital investment programme.

Following the performances at Johnstone Town Hall, the show moves to the Tron Theatre, in Glasgow for a run between July 14 and 30. Underwood Lane is supported by Future Paisley, the wide-ranging programme of activity led by Renfrewshire Council which aims to use Paisley’s rich cultural story to transform its future.

Byrne himself grew up in the Ferguslie Park housing scheme only a mile or so away from Underwood Lane where the Rafferty family lived. He became friendly with Gerry Rafferty’s older brother, Jim, who worked beside him in the slab room at Stoddard’s. One of Byrne’s most iconic theatrical works was The Slab Boys, based on his time there.

Byrne takes up the story of his fledgling musical performing career that never got much further than strumming a few chords:

“I loved skiffle music and at the time my favourites were The Vipers and Lonnie Donegan, who was wonderful.

“Then rock ‘n’ roll exploded into all of our lives and Bill Haley and the Comets was who I liked best.

“What a time we had listening to Radio Luxemburg and we could only get a decent signal at night when it was dark. Weekends were great because that’s when they broadcast the Top 20.”

He continues: “When Jim and I worked together, we went halfers buying a three-string banjo for ten shillings from a woman who worked in Stoddard’s design room.

“We would keep it in the slab room, but put a dustcoat over it to hide it from the gaffer. And when none of the bosses were about we’d get out the banjo and practise.

“We weren’t that good at playing the banjo and one day Jim asked if he could take the instrument home to give it to his younger brother, Gerry who apparently was learning to songs from listening to the radio.

“I didn’t have a problem with that as Gerry didn’t have an instrument at the time and I didn’t want to be caught playing the banjo when I should have been working. So the famous Gerry Rafferty’s first guitar was actually a banjo his brother and I gifted to him!”

Later, Byrne saved up enough money to buy a six-string Epiphone ‘Elvis Presley’ model guitar with The King’s name spelled out on the fretboard, from Cuthbertson’s music shop, in Gilmour Street, Paisley.

“When I was at art school,’ Byrne continues, “everyone had a guitar, but the problem was not everyone could play it properly. But what mattered was that you had a guitar and when rock ‘n’ roll came along everyone was ready and armed to the teeth.

“There was no chance of me joining a band as I could only play three chords – G, C and D. I learned the chord shapes from a book and it was probably the tutor everyone used at that time – Bert Weedon’s Play In Day. However, it would have been a really long day before I would be able to play the guitar properly.”

Playing guitar might just have been a sideline for Byrne, as by this time his artistic talents with a pencil and a paintbrush were being well recognised, but he did collaborate with Gerry Rafferty in writing a song called Benjamin Day.

This was eventually released as a single with the band, Fifth Column, which was the group Rafferty played in before the Humblebums and Stealer’s Wheel.

Byrne admits: “Playing guitar was just a hobby for me and the difference with Gerry was that he turned his hobby into millions of pounds.

“I was always going to be an artist as my mother used to say I was drawing while I was still in the pram. I can’t remember when I started to draw and it’s as if I’ve been drawing all my life.”

Byrne has become one of Scotland’s most talented artists and writers and is best known for his paintings, theatrical masterpieces like The Slab Boys Trilogy and the hit TV shows, Tutti Frutti and Your Cheatin’ Heart.

The Underwood Lane musical play features music from that Fifties and Sixties era, although it has taken years to get it from page to stage.

Byrne explains: “A London West End musical director came to see me in my home at the time, in Nairn and asked if I could write a script that would carry Gerry Rafferty’s back catalogue of songs.

“Leave it with me, I said, but it has taken 17 years to get it produced on stage. It took all that time because it probably took my agent that long to read the script and also unfortunately, we couldn’t get the rights to use Gerry’s music.”

And fate intervened when Byrne was searching for right title for the show.

He explains: “I’d just finished the script and wasn’t sure what to call it. I had given it the working title Underwood Lane because that’s where Gerry Rafferty was born.

“I’d been given the biography of painter, illustrator and stage designer, John Minton, which I’d then started to read. On Page 8 of the introduction I saw the name Underwood Lane and although it was a place in a different town, I knew this was a good omen and that would be the title of the play I’d just finished. It was magical the way it happened.

“I didn’t even finish the book as I’d got everything I needed from it with the Underwood Lane title.”

Paisley has always been central to Byrne’s creativity and he’s delighted the world premiere of Underwood Lane is going to be in Renfrewshire.

John says: “Paisley made me and I had absorbed everything that happened to me when I was growing up in the town. “

And he remembers the exact moment that he had an epiphany and realised this – ironically on his birthday, January 6, which is the day of the Christian Epiphany.

“I was about 14 or 15 years old and had an epiphany travelling on the bus heading home to Ferguslie Park,” he explains.

“The bus drove down Well Street, past Underwood Lane, ironically; went through Craigielea; up our street, Dalskeith Road and turned a corner to park at the terminus.

“At that very moment I looked out the window and it dawned on me that I had everything – every piece of information – I would need for the rest of my days. My experiences living in Paisley has dominated and been a great gift to me.”

And to his legions of admirers, that journey would have been worth every penny of the bus fare.

Following on from the success of its inaugural Festival, Paisley Book Festival is delighted to add a new strand to its 2021 Festival.

Thanks to funding from Creative Scotland’s Sustaining Creative Development Fund, the Festival is inviting submissions from an experienced writer for its new Digital Writer-in-Residence scheme. It is looking for a published writer who will work with local communities and help the Festival reach wider audiences.

paisley book festival

This residency is open to all forms of writing including prose, poetry, playwriting, writing for children, and genre writing, as long as it is inspired and influenced by Paisley and the 2021 Book Festival theme, Radical New Futures. Writers must have a proven track record of publications (at least one book/collection published) as well as a history of community engagement and of delivering writing workshops.

Keira Brown, Producer, Paisley Book Festival said: “We are so thankful for the support from Creative Scotland to allow us the opportunity to introduce this new programme, which is not only a great opportunity for a writer but one which the local community will reap benefits from also. Connecting to Paisley and its people, as well as our book festival theme Radical New Futures, which addresses this idea of new narratives emerging from this pandemic, this will be a fantastic addition to the Book Festival.”

The first-ever Paisley Book Festival took place in February 2020, with a diverse programme of events exploring contemporary ideas around radicalism.

Headline names included Jackie Kay, John Byrne, Kirsty Wark, Janice Galloway, and the Fun Lovin ’Crime Writers. Acclaimed writers from across the UK engaged local audiences in a love of reading and writing, and took part in a variety of events, from discussion panels, masterclasses, and workshops to storytelling performances. The Festival exceeded all expectations with many events selling out.

The Writer-in-Residence will be contracted on a part-time basis for ten weeks from November 2020 – March 2021 and would be expected to be present at the Book Festival to host or chair events, which have been curated by them as part of their residency.

For further information contact: Wendy Niblock PR | wendyjniblock@btinternet.com | 07961 814834


It’s the faded Victorian jewel in Paisley town centre’s crown and now a £22million makeover is set to bring Paisley Town Hall into the 21st century.


The once thriving social hub will treat Buddies to one final ceilidh tonight (Friday 28 December) before shutting its doors until 2021.

The Town Hall has become the social heart of Paisley since opening in January 1882, hosting meetings, tea dances, social gatherings, conferences, events, festivals and concerts.

The historic venue gave Paolo Nutini his big break, hosted some of Gerry Rafferty’s earliest shows and provided the setting for Cuttin’ A Rug, John Byrne’s follow-up to The Slab Boys.


Construction on the iconic building, which was originally designed by Belfast architect W H Lynn, began in 1879 after George A. Clark, a member of Paisley’s famous thread family, left £20,000 for its creation in his will. A statue commemorating Clark and his contribution to Paisley now stands outside the historic venue.

Gerry Rafferty_Print_045

The £22million refurbishment will transform the facility, creating a social hub, conference and events venue fit for the 21st Century.

The redesign will be led by award-winning architects Holmes Miller, who worked on the redevelopment of Old Trafford and reshaped Hampden for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

PA694 Paisley Town Hall, 1960

Councillor Lisa-Marie Hughes, Chair of Renfrewshire Leisure, said: “The building is going to have something for everyone when it reopens in 2021, it’s going to be used for culture, conferences, events and the community and will be a truly memorable live music venue on the Scottish touring circuit.

George A. Clark Town Hall and Gauze Street, Paisley, 1894

Gauze Street, showing Town hall, work being carried out at top of Dunn Square. Original source – black & white 7½” x 5¾” photograph

“This transformation will have a great impact on Paisley and the whole of Renfrewshire. We want to make sure that there are lots of reasons to come to this building because there are lots of activities going on.

George A. Clark Town Hall, Paisley

View from elevated position looking south east, showing Town Hall, River Cart, Cart Walk, Forbes Place, with Anchor Mills in the background. Original source – black & white 10″ x 8″ photograph.

“There’s a lot happening in Paisley. We want to bring business and visitors here and create a hub for our community, this transformation will do that.”

The redesign will also help local businesses, bringing more people from outside Paisley to the town for events and conferences and creating chances for them to thrive.

The Town Hall is expected to attract 100,000 visitors a year when it reopens.

Bob Grant, Chief Executive of Renfrewshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The Town Hall redesign and £100million investment in Paisley’s cultural and heritage venues will create jobs and support local businesses by bringing new potential customers to the town.

“In the last year Paisley has seen an increase both to the local economy and visitor numbers and we look forward to positive impact for the business community once these projects are complete.”

The project is part of a £100million investment by Renfrewshire Council and its partners in Paisley’s cultural and heritage venues that will turn the town into a tourist destination, creating jobs and benefiting the whole of Renfrewshire.

Other buildings that will benefit from the investment include Paisley Museum, which is undergoing a £42million four-year makeover, and Paisley Library, which will move into High Street in 2021.

Council Leader Iain Nicolson said: “The Town Hall will close its doors today to undergo a £22million makeover. When it reopens in 2021 it will have been transformed into a flagship performance venue that will bring bigger shows to Paisley.

“These are very exciting times for Paisley and Renfrewshire. The Town Hall transformation is part of a £100million investment in Paisley’s cultural venues that will turn the town into a tourist destination, creating jobs and benefiting the whole of Renfrewshire.

“These are challenging times for high streets up and down the country but we’re making a bold move, investing in our town centre and creating opportunities to let our communities and local businesses thrive.

“The Town Hall is a jewel in Paisley’s town centre. This makeover will bring the historic venue into the 21st Century.”