The talent was out in force for the launch of Paisley 2021’s official album on the evening of the 23rd of October, as performers aimed to sway the committee responsible for determining whether Paisley will replace Hull as U.K City of Culture in four years’ time.
The launch, which took place in the ‘Spree’ tent, erected outside Paisley Gilmour Street train station, was the culmination of weeks of events in connection with Paisley’s Spree Festival.
Denizens of Renfrewshire have been treated to everything from talent competitions and toddlers’ discos, to poetry readings and the soulful tones of Paolo Nutini at Paisley Abbey.
Nutini is one of a host of celebrities including David Tennant, Gerard Butler and Sherlock and Doctor Who writer, Steven Moffat, who all grew up calling the historic town their home.
Another who grew up in the town only to leave in her 20s and then return post-retirement is singer/songwriter Evelyn Laurie who wrote the catchy theme ‘Keep Your Eye On Paisley’ for the album. Evelyn has seen first-hand the degeneration of the town over recent years but believes that it still has what it takes to become the City of Culture.
She said: “Obviously it’s a post-industrial town and a lot of industry’s moved away which means you have to find a new identity and it’s there – the richness of the talent. I heard someone call it the ‘massive cultural arsenal’ the other day and I’m just going to keep borrowing that phrase.
You don’t realise and it’s sort of a gradual thing then all of a sudden the high-street’s empty and people are depressed. You look at the history then think, ok, we don’t have that anymore, but look what we do have.
There are so many talented people here. I think everybody who’s on this CD has been amazing and it’s been a fantastic way to put Paisley’s voice out there.”
The album comprises 12 very different tracks from local semi-professional artists of all ages and genres, sharing a Paisley-based theme. This diverse mix of music is part of a diverse bid from a diverse town which many hope may be the key to Paisley achieving success in their goal to be named the U.K’s most cultural city.
Sabrina Mandulu of vocal harmony ensemble, Mandulu and Hephzibah, (whose contribution to the album focused upon the tragic demise of the Paisley witches and who supported Nutini at the Abbey), believes that diversity is the cornerstone. She said: “Paisley deserve to be City of Culture 2021 because there is always something happening and everyone’s always involved. You can see it right now. We didn’t expect there to be such a great audience but here we are. Everyone’s included and inclusive and there’s a great diversity.”
Composer and vocalist, Erin Hephzibah, added: “If Paisley didn’t get it there would be a lot of disappointment and maybe some outrage. People are so invested in this and they want Paisley to have something good.”
One stumbling block may be the fact that Paisley is not officially considered a city but with all the traditional requirements thought to be met to become one this has long been a bone of contention since the town was unceremoniously rejected for city status in the 1990s. The City Of Culture Committee does not, however, require that entrants are officially considered cities and the shortlisting of Paisley for the 2021 title reflect that.
Prior to their second performance Mr Ologe, lead singer of the reggae/funk combo, The Pilgrim Society, summed up the mood of Paisley buddies everywhere when he said: “If we don’t get this we may have to go and knock on the door of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport” before launching into a rendition of their song ‘Knock Knock’.
Paisley has seen somewhat of a transformation since its entry into the city of culture list. There have been almost daily events and happenings, glorious mural facades adorn once bland building fronts and renovations have taken place across the town, which aims to be a city. Even St Mirren’s iconic football ground, Love Street, has been officially renamed ‘Paisley 2021 Stadium’ in honour of the bid.
Paisley will face off against a final shortlist of Coventry, Stoke-On-Trent, Sunderland, and Swansea in their bid for the coveted award.
The eventual winner will be decided in December and receive a three million pound Heritage Lottery Fund grant, host national awards such as the Brits and Man Booker Prize and become the focus of national attention and cultural development, all of which is expected to create nearly five thousand jobs.