Hey, Mamma Look at me! I’m on the way to the promised land…

‘Going to Hull to get cultural?’ the guard on the train asked as he punched my ticket. Well of course – why not? I’m always cultural. I’m a cultured fellow…

At the beginning of March I had the brilliant opportunity to visit Hull – 2017 City of Culture – and it was great to be there with colleagues from the Paisley 2021 bid team and with other representatives from bidding cities from across the UK. The overwhelming feeling I was left with following the visit was how much the opportunities from the City of Culture status has changed how local people feel about the city in which they live.  Talking to some of the volunteers who were acting as city ambassadors was a treat – all of them were so enthused by what was happening and they looked fantastic in their very cool and colourful uniforms. I’m sure when we win the competition our volunteer ambassadors will look just as good and radiate to all our visitors the pride we have in Paisley.

In Hull railway station, you’re met not only by the volunteers but also by a striking statue of poet Philip Larkin who lived for a large part of his life in Hull. A wonderful writer, his poems capture qualities of life which are often overlooked. His work seems to be concerned with the modern world and the relentless process of change but it also, to me at least, contains a sense of hope regards where the change may lead too. I’d like to think that he would have seen the City of Culture award for Hull as something filled with hope for the future.

While I was in the station I couldn’t help think that a statue of a Paisley icon in Paisley’s Gilmour Street railway station would be a great way to greet our guests. I will cast my vote now for Gerry Rafferty…perhaps with these words somewhere nearby…

‘I know how much I lean on you

Only you can see

The changes that I’ve been through

Have left a mark on me’

One final impression of Hull – culture was all around – even in the polite notices… This one here, which was on a wall in one of the venues, reminded me of the master Marcel Duchamp…


Kindness Day

Today is Kindness Day UK, a nationally recognised day for the celebration of kindness in society and day to day life. Individual acts of kindness are encouraged on this day annually. So be nice to everyone today…and tomorrow… And if you want to look cool while you’re being kind these very cool shirts are available from Big Issue online:


Speak soon – Tara!




I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter And I’m gonna make believe it came from you…

fullsizerenderMy daughter is still at the stage where she’ll make you a handmade card for any reason – ‘Happy Saturday!’, ‘It’s Wednesday and we’re going swimming – well done!’ and today I fully expect to get a pancake-day card…

I’ve always been keen on a handmade card. I remember designing my first ‘haunknitted’ Christmas one – it was truly ‘old skool’ punk rock. Jamie Reid (who designed the iconic record sleeves for the Sex Pistols) ‘kidnapper’ lettering, a skull in a Santa hat and a turkey making run for it uttering the immortal line ‘I’m off…’

Handmade cards for me were about saying something original to my friends, making a wry political statement…and saving money. Working as I did on a YTS (Youth Training Scheme) graphic design and screen printing project I had access to endless supplies of cheap card, photocopiers, ‘DYMO’ lettering guns and spray mount. Aaah…the design tools of yore…

I had a particular fondness for my DYMO gun (red it was…). DYMO of course produce labelling products but in my opinion they’ll never top the 70’s & 80’s day-glo plastic fantastic DYMO gun which  allowed you to print letter-by-letter a simple adhesive label that you could attach to anything. You had to turn the wheel at the top of the gun and ‘click’ each letter through by pulling the ‘trigger’ of your gun. Magic.

This little bit of cool kit meant that you could produce attractive (in a ropey sort of way) lettering that could be stuck on posters and enlarged in a photocopier. Please remember that this was in the days before scruffy youths on YTS courses were allowed access to computers of any kind. There were no ‘Gothic’ fonts readily available, there was no touch of a button effects…and there certainly was no ‘Photoshop’…well there was but it was called Munro’s and it also did dry cleaning.

Anyway if you were adept in the ways of the DYMO force you could ‘click’ whole track lists for your compilation cassette. Invariably this meant that wee Sharon would always end up swearing out loud as she tried in vain to avoid putting an extra ‘O’ in Kajagoogoo…

Paisley Ironed Man – Rainbow Turtle – Fairtrade Fortnight 2017

Date: Saturday 4th March

Time: 1.00pm to 2.00pm

Venue: The Cross, Paisley


The Paisley Ironed Man event is 4 guys, dressed as Blues Buddies, undressing down to their fair trade underwear, and ironing each layer after they’ve removed it. They will be accompanied by the Renfrewshire Community Gospel Choir, who will sing Aretha Franklin’s version of Respect. They’re hoping for a warm dry day!

For more information about the work of Rainbow Turtle and its fundraising campaign, visit: www.rainbowturtle.org.uk.

So deck those halls. Trim those trees. Raise up cups of Christmas cheer.

treeI received a direct message today on twitter from an old friend who in wishing me well for Christmas also noted that it’s been 14 years since the rock legend Joe Strummer of The Clash passed away. This led me to reminisce that I once met Mr Strummer outside the legendary Glasgow Apollo and how much the gig remains with me to this day. I find music memories take me back so clearly to the moment…and at this time of year the music memory box is triggered regularly. Fairytale of New York? Frosty the Snowman? When you hear these songs what do you remember? Nights out? Christmas Dinners? Does hearing ‘Let it Snow’ by Vaughn Monroe make you think of mistletoe or like me does it make you think of ‘Die Hard’ which is probably my favourite festive holiday film…

On hearing ‘Merry Xmas’ by Slade the other day my six year old daughter said ‘Och, not this again!’…I’m sure she’ll grow to love it. I’m actually a big fan of that song and I’m sure you’ve got a favourite – whatever songs you choose for your festive holiday soundtrack make sure you turn up the volume and dance around….as Noddy sez …’Its CHRISTMAAAAAAAAAAS!’

How Could £5,000 Develop Your Youth Project?

Faiths in Community Scotland Action Fund’s (FiSCAF) first funding deadline of 2017 is going to focus on young people.  FiSCAF are calling for applications from organisations motivated by faith who could use £5,000 to make a real difference to the lives of people 18 and under, experiencing poverty in their local community.

Deadline for applications is the 10th of February and open to all charities who meet  FiSCAF’s criteria and have never received funding from the STV Children’s Appeal. For more information and an application form visit www.faithincommunityscotland.org/faith-in-community-scotland-action-fund/

See you in the New Year – here’s tae us – Lang may yir lum reek!


With eyes completely open…But nervous all the same…

By george it’s chilly! – but very pretty in #Paisley2021


I was thinking this week about the ways we now take in our ‘TV’ rations which have changed so much in the last few years due to the advent of digital streaming.  Online entertainment providers are now spending multi-millions on content that perhaps may end up being viewed mostly on hand held devices – cinematic productions which may never get the benefit of the truly ‘big screen’.

I like going to the movies – still find it a thrill – and I remember taking my son to the ‘pictures’ for the very first time. I had booked our cinema tickets online and just as well. The car park was busy to bursting but we managed to park kind of close to the front doors and with a minimum amount of fuss from the occupants of the car we dashed inside. It was a typical summer’s day in Scotland and the rain was bouncing on the bonnet of the car and the pavements alike.  In the centre of the foyer there was an almighty queue for tickets, hotdogs and nachos which snaked back and forth across the red carpeted entrances to the 12 screens. Our show was on in Screen 6 which like the car park before was rammed with parents, grandparents, carers and weans.

It seemed like we had got the last two seats that were available together. I took off my son’s coat off and propped him up on the seat which immediately folded back leaving my lad shaped like a capital ‘V’. He recovered to perch himself on the edge of the seat – avoiding the flip up conundrum – and seemed to enjoy the rest of the experience.

As I say it was a first for my son and I was aware that I watched him more than I did the screen for the first hour or so. Essentially throughout the duration of the film I was waiting on him to be scared or upset by something – the sheer size of the screen, the volume of noise, the darkness – but it never came. ‘Maybe’ I thought to myself while the cartoon characters on screen escaped from yet another scrape ‘he’s been desensitized by the 24hr illuminated world in which we live and through repeated exposure to challenging media stimuli he can no longer experience the shock of the new…’ or maybe it’s because most of the homes he had visited had large screen plasma televisions mounted on the walls of their front rooms and sound systems to match.

I remember him visiting my brother’s house the day that a new 50 or so inch plasma had been installed. My boy who was about one year old then and hadn’t been walking long was fascinated by this thing. It had been hung low so it was just a perfect height for him to stand directly in front of. His face was a picture as he stood staring slack-jawed in amazement at this huge liquid colour filled box that was alive with Disney cartoons, Sponge Bob and Scooby Doo. Fantastic picture quality, built in blu-ray DVD, hi-fi sound and High Definition chocolate buttons smeared across the pristine plasma screen…


I think we all know within the Third Sector that adapting to digital ways of working is challenging but there is an argument that if we don’t adapt we will struggle to remain as successful as we know we can be – the article – ‘Go digital or die’ from the TFN is worth a read and can be seen here:


Zoe Amar’s blog ‘What can we learn from the Scottish voluntary sector’s Digital Call to Action?’ is a good read – be careful though – it features a picture of yours truly…


‘Stories, Stones & Bones’

We are holding a Funding Spotlight Session on the 8th December 2016 covering Heritage Lottery’s Fund ‘Stories, Stones & Bones’ – see here for details: http://bit.ly/2gfY3z8

Paisley 2021 – Pledge Deadline 15 Jan 2017

And of course – as I sign off I remind you that there’s still time to pledge your support for Paisley 2021 – see here: http://bit.ly/2gfYERF

Good luck to all – speak soon


Then the door was open and the wind appeared, The candles blew then disappeared…


It’s Halloween – what costume do you remember wearing as a bairn? One year I remember being dressed as an ‘OXO’ cube (big box, big hole at the top for your head, wee holes at side for arms, write ‘OXO’ on it…) and I remember my mate being dressed as 1970’s American private detective ‘Frank Cannon’ – happy days! Yesterday in my local supermarket the employees where getting in on the action – a few pirates and a couple of ghosts – fair doos – there was however one enthusiastic member of the crew in the fruit & veg aisle dressed as a mutilated zombie with gore oozing from his ear – not the sort of thing you expect to come across when trying to buy carrots.  It’s all zombies these days… (cue the Hovis tune…).

As you can probably tell from my ‘OXO’ costume story, back in my distant past it was all about doing things cheap – and if you could do it for free all the better. In the days when I used to manage a Design and Print Youth Training Scheme we would beg and borrow from anybody who was willing to give, give, give in a ‘charitee’ style.  Like Dickensian characters dressed in punk rock clothing we would call at the door of any local business within walking distance of our workshop. Once there we would stand with our mitts out like St Francis of Assisi asking ‘Please Sir, can I have some more…of your card, paint, old mosaic tiles, brushes, glue, paper or spare sticky back plastic?’ Anything free was a suitable material. This was in the days before massive mega DIY stores had sprung up on every available retail outlet and your local ironmonger was usually more than willing to give you any job lot of old junk that was cluttering up his warehouse or back cupboard. For free. Yippee!

I remember one load of distinctly old off-white card that we got for nothing being described to one of our unsuspecting customers as ‘ivory’ and if he wanted his posters printed on the ‘ivory’ it would be a fiver more than ‘normal’ white…

One time we got a load of square Perspex plastic panels given to us from somewhere. Each square was about the size of an LP (that’s a 12” record album by the way) and was perfectly clean. Quite inspiring actually. What I decide to do was print simple logos – Indian symbols, peace logos, celtic knots – on six or so. I then sandwiched two panels together (one with a logo and one clear) with a mixture of coloured inks between the two panels. This left you with six multi-coloured panels that I intended to link together and create a hanging installation for our Training Scheme’s up and coming annual exhibition.

I was working on my hanging work of art one day when a friend of mine – to protect the innocent let’s call him ‘Bob’ – popped in to see me.

‘What’s that?’ says Bob picking up one of the multi coloured panels. ‘It’s something I’m building’ I say. ‘It’s a hanging decoration. A mobile’

‘A whit?’ he says. ‘A mobile’ I say repeating myself. ‘Whit’s a mobile?’ I look at him and I start to think how best to get this across in the simplest of terms. ‘Well…it’s…it’s a colourful thing that…it’s something you hang up and it moves…it’s something colourful that you’d normally see hanging in a baby’s or a wee toddler’s bedroom. It’s a mobile.’

He thinks for a minute and then says… ‘Aww!  You mean a lampshade.’

 Year of the Dad: Digital Fun Day!

Don’t forget if you’re looking for new ideas for ‘digital’ ways to play, Engage Renfrewshire have teamed up with Fathers Network Scotland to bring you a FREE digital fun day on 5 November between 11:00-14:00 in St. Ninian’s Church, Paisley. There will be plenty of digital activities to keep you and the kids entertained. You can explore augmented reality where cyberspace meets the real world, lose yourself entirely in virtual reality, get active with the Wii or try your hand at basic coding in the Coding Dojo. For further information or to book a place contact Lauren at Engage Renfrewshire – 0141 887 7707. Or you can use the link here – Digital Event!

I’ve always loved ‘The Raven’ by Edgar Allan Poe and it’s especially haunting at this time of year:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—Only this and nothing more.”

…Just remember that the ‘rapping at your chamber door’ tonight will probably be the local zombies in search of sugar…It’s all zombies these days…

Don’t let the spooks get yae – Ta Ta!


I’d have the world around, To see just whatever happens…

In 1981 the brilliant Kraftwerk included the song ‘Computer Love’ on their ‘Computer World’ album. The song includes the line (translated from German) ‘Stare at the (TV) screen, I don’t know what to do…’ On Saturday I went along to celebrate my eldest brother’s birthday – a milestone one, by the way – and he was suggesting that while he was delighted with the new android tablet he had received as a gift other than switching it on he wasn’t that sure what else to do with it… he did note that his grandaughter (who is 5) would help him…Even in 1981, Kraftwerk new that the world around us was changing profoundly and that digital networks would impact on the way that people work, live and play.

There is a stereotypical view that older people are not interested in new technology or that they are not able to ‘catch up’ but there is in fact a growing awareness among all sections of the community around the benefits and importance of digital engagement. Locally therefore we need to remain committed to digital participation and inclusion – with the needs of local people at the core.

A week ago we had our first Renfrewshire One Digital Event at Johnstone Town Hall. Presentations from David Amos, Head of Policy and Commissioning from Renfrewshire Council, Maddie Stark, One Digital Development Officer from SCVO Digital and Darran Gillan, Youth Work Manager from Paisley YMCA were warmly received by the 50 delegates in attendance.

A presentation on the value of Social Media to local organisations – ‘One Digital in Action’ – by Volunteers (Billy Pollock and Zoe Rice) from the ‘Environmental Training Team’ demonstrated how digital engagement can quickly become a key resource for local people.

John Turley, Development Manager at SITE Scotland (http://www.sitescotland.org/) gave a wide demonstration using tools and aids that described brilliantly why those managing digital support mechanisms need to work to remove barriers, create solutions and expand possibilities so people with sight loss can achieve their full digital potential.

A successful event I would suggest – check out Beth Murphy’s (@Betty_Murphy) Storify which covers the day here: https://storify.com/Betty_Murphy/one-digital-and-digiren?utm_campaign=website&utm_source=email&utm_medium=email


Maddie @StarkMadelaine from SCVO ‘Backing the Bid’ #Paisley2021 by wearing the badge!

Paisley 2021  

As always the Team at STAR have been busy backing the ‘Paisley 2021’ bid – in fact this week saw the PREMIERE! of their ‘Back The Bid Vid!‘.. If you feel inspired please share your ‘Back the Bid Vid!’ on all platforms using #Paisley2021 .

Take care – speak soon.


And at the fall of night – This city’s made of lights

Ah the wonders of digital…

Next week our fourth #DigiRen meeting will take place. What’s that you may ask… Well, it’s an event aimed at sharing digital ideas and practice with the aim of promoting digital participation in Renfrewshire. At each meeting we have some great guest speakers and this time on the agenda is @lauren_gilmour1  & @sparkybrain . Lauren & Paul have been working had across Renfrewshire during the last few months to promote all things @Digi_ren –  including the promotion and recruitment of digital volunteers – see DigiRen Volunteering . Encouraging people to get online can be difficult and we’re aware that sometimes digital exclusion can be linked to economical exclusion. Lauren & Paul are looking to help local people benefit from going online – and the more willing volunteers they can attract the better. If you’re keen to help or just want to know more tweet them.


If you’re in Paisley at any time over the next few weeks you’re bound to bump into the ‘Pride’ – fantastic multi-coloured lions that have popped up all over the centre of town if you want to know more check out Pride of Paisley . You’ll love them…


A few wee bits and pieces for note…

If you’re involved with Youth organisations the link below will be of interest – ‘Roshni’ have developed, with the Scottish Government’s support, a series of courses aimed at Youth Workers and Volunteers working throughout Scotland to develop their knowledge and skills when working with young people from Minority Ethnic Communities. Click here: http://www.engagerenfrewshire.com/content/resources/Roshni_Free_Training_for_Youth_Workers.pdf

Our good friends at @ramh_scotland are looking for your support with their bike ride – Get on your bike and ride! : http://www.engagerenfrewshire.com/content/resources/RAMH_-_Bike_or_Hike_for_mental_health.pdf

And finally – Funding – As part of the Scotland-wide celebrations of the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017, the Heritage Lottery fund is looking to inspire people to get involved in learning about and enjoying their heritage for the first time. A good one for all those working around the @Paisley2021 bid: http://www.engagerenfrewshire.com/content/resources/Heritage_Lottery_Fund_-_Year_of_History_Heritage_and_Archaeology_2017.pdf

Speak soon – all the best