December 7th of last year didn’t quite go to plan for Paisley. After many long months of campaigning, concerts and other public events, the town narrowly missed out in the bid to become the UK’s City of Culture 2021. The mood (which had been electric all night) throughout halls, pubs and homes sank quicker than you could say one word: Coventry.
However, the deflation that spread through the town only stayed for a night.
Losing the title took nothing away from all that Paisley had gained over the last year. The town’s efforts had reminded residents of a glorious past, while suggesting a burgeoning future.
A Renfrewshire Council spokesperson, who was directly involved in the Paisley 2021 , said: “The bid process was hugely positive for the town, helping to restore civic pride, raise our profile and transform our reputation.”
Over the years, this small market settlement has made an international name for itself. Paisley became famous for her designs, innovation, activism and entertainment. Shawls donning the Paisley Pattern were sold worldwide and the area produced plenty who campaigned for cases of social justice, fairer employment and education.
Ultimately, the 2021 bid has resurrected the idea that Paisley could, and should, become a cultural hub. Government investments, which will be key to the town’s rejuvenation, have been flowing in.
Most recently, the Paisley Museum (which showcases Paisley’s internationally renowned textiles) received a £4 million funding boost that is expected to draw 125,000 visits a year. On top of that, a £500k investment was revealed several days ago to develop the area’s creative sector. These are just a few examples of the funding that has either already been allotted or promised to the revitalisation of the area.
A Renfrewshire Council spokesperson said: “Last year’s enhanced events programme helped to drive footfall in the town centre which contributed £2.45 million to the local and visitor economy.
“There is £100 million confirmed investment in Paisley town centre venues and outdoor spaces aimed at driving new footfall, preserving our architectural legacy and creating a cultural destination that will benefit the local economy.
“There will also be major investment in Renfrewshire over the next decade through the Glasgow City Region City Deal, with major infrastructure projects designed to unlock economic potential, improve connectivity and create jobs.”
Whilst it is easy to look at levels of investment or how many thousands or millions of pounds are going where, there has been a more intangible benefit for the town. National recognition has been a happy by-product of the bid, one which will help Paisley’s tourist trade.
“The town’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2021 changed the town for the better and the momentum it generated will continue.
“It raised Paisley’s profile to new levels – reaching millions of people on a global scale – and increased awareness of its unique offer.
“It also transformed a reputation and brought a renewed sense of self-confidence back to residents which had previously been lost.”
After the year-long festivities south of the border have finished and long after the memories of defeat have disappeared from the town square, Paisley will have walked far down the road of revival. That will be the true legacy left from the 2021 bid.