You must see the movie, the sand in my eyes…


Just balancing some grapes…

Most people who know me are aware of my lifelong Star Wars addiction. My son and I are heading to watch ‘Solo – A Star Wars Story’ on Saturday and I have so far avoided all ‘spoilers’. He’s disappointed that we didn’t go first day but I’m sure that after the 3D experience he’ll get over it. Amazingly my boy’s commitment to Star Wars may even be greater than mine…in some areas of parenthood I’ve failed miserably…but in some I’ve been successful…

Volunteer Week starts tomorrow (1st June) – and if you work with volunteers this is the time to say thank you for the fantastic contribution volunteers make. In Renfrewshire we have a deeply committed, dynamic and well-networked voluntary sector – as well as long standing traditions of people helping each other and contributing to their communities in ways which they might not think of as ‘volunteering’.  I’ve always found it fascinating how many people see the volunteering work that they do as ‘just helping’. Without this commitment to ‘just helping’ many community services would struggle and communities would feel a lot less connected & supportive.  In terms of the volunteers themselves, research suggests that volunteering enhances social capital, improves personal wellbeing and can be a successful pathway to employment.

On a personal level, I would argue that it has been my volunteering experiences that have taught me the most. For sure, in the various roles of non-executive director on charitable boards that I have held over the years I have often found myself stretched and required to learn very quickly indeed. Non-executive directors are expected to focus on board matters and provide an independent view of the company that is removed from the day-to-day running; they are appointed to the board to bring independence, impartiality and sometimes special knowledge of a sector or situation. It can be a challenging role to take up, but seeing as we are heading into ‘Volunteer Week 2018’ could I suggest that if you haven’t ever tried it and you think you’ve got specialist knowledge to offer to the Third Sector please give it your consideration! There are lots of local groups and agencies out there looking for non-executive support – so why not improve your wellbeing – volunteer today!!

During Volunteer Week, hundreds of events and celebrations take place across the country, saying thank you to volunteers and recognising their invaluable and diverse contribution to the UK. Renfrewshire’s volunteering celebration event, organised by the Volunteer Managers Forum, takes place at the Lagoon Leisure centre next Friday.

If you want to come along please book your place here:

All the best – speak soon!



But still alive, In endless time, Endless art…


I’ve often read that exercise allows your conscious mind to access fresh ideas that are buried in your subconscious. Engaging in cultural activity seems to have the same types of affect…good for keeping yourself in balance I suppose…the opportunity to be creative is attractive, right?

Pablo Picasso argued that “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

I spent today supporting the Creative Renfrewshire Network recruit new board members for the organisation. Creative Renfrewshire Network is a networking group representing all arts and culture throughout Renfrewshire and has been driven by local enthusiasts, dedicated to celebrating and building on the rich cultural resources of Renfrewshire – past, present and future – with a forward-looking local, national and international outlook. The new board that the group are looking to appoint will have the challenge of driving the body towards operating as a social enterprise. Everyone who put themselves forward for the board brought with them an enthusiasm for the potential of the network and the potential of culture continuing to change peoples’ lives in Renfrewshire.

It was a long day – any of you who have been involved on interview panels will know that they can be challenging – but I was left feeling invigorated. The energy around cultural activity in Renfrewshire is on a high of course due to the focus of the recent city of culture bid as well as announcements around new cultural infrastructure and the developing, vibrant local community culture delivery. However, as someone who has been very close to these developments I have been worried that the energy may drop of.  The truth of the matter seems to be that more and more people – who perhaps were less connected to the cultural agenda previously – have been drawn towards this area of work. And importantly they have brought other types of skills, ideas and dynamism to the exercise. Very refreshing! #OurJourneyContinues

 ENABLE – #BetheChange

ENABLE Scotland is currently running a campaign called #BetheChange. The campaign focuses on promoting ‘change through understanding’ to challenge people’s perceptions and break down barriers to an equal society. You can share the campaign and ask others to #BetheChange on Twitter. For more information see here:

Speak soon – all the best





I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping

guitarThis week has been a bit of a blur. And that’s not a great thing at all. I do try to smell the roses. Honest. Nearly the weekend – time to have a little strum on the guitar…

This morning I was given the opportunity as part of #TeamRenfrewshire to speak at the COSLA Convention at Paisley Town Hall. Alongside colleagues from the local authority and Renfrewshire Leisure I was presenting on the impact of the regeneration approaches in Paisley & beyond. Alasdair from the council spoke about Regeneration in the Renfrewshire context – recent achievements; future plans and lessons learned to date. Morag from Renfrewshire Leisure spoke about the cultural infrastructure and the exciting changes planned for the museum, libraries and our other wonderful public assets. I was covering community engagement and why if it you make it meaningful it can truly deliver. I think the three of us did okay and I was pleased to be given the chance to champion our approaches. The other speakers were great – including members of the youth parliament who presented information on their work and how they hoped to help local services improve. Overall I came away thinking that there is a lot of passion for high quality local public sector delivery in Scotland and the work that happens in partnership with the third sector is well recognised and respected. A good day – if you want to know more check twitter – #coslapaisley2018

The Lobbying Act

The new Lobbying Act came into place on 12 March 2018. Attached below are links to the Scottish Government Guidance, including a 5 step fact sheet – hope you find them useful.

All the best


‘Radio is a sound salvation, Radio is cleaning up the nation…’


Paisley will soon have its own full-time radio station – Paisley FM will be on the air from the summer of 2018, and thanks to the support of University of the West of Scotland it will be based within the University’s campus in the town. I’m a huge fan of radio, particularly local radio and I would urge everyone to support Paisley FM – you can start by filling out their survey here:

Hearing this great news reminded me of my days as a community arts worker when part of my job meant supporting a local community radio station – ‘FPR’ – Ferguslie Park Radio. We operated under a ‘Restricted Service Licence’, meaning we could only run for a few weeks at a time during each broadcast but it was fantastic fun. The station was manned mostly by local young people who were looking to do something constructive – or at least something that they could enjoy. All of the volunteers and other support staff were amazing – full on, professional and committed. Everyone believed they were providing a community service and the wider community responded very positively.

So there we were – broadcasting to the world (well, a five mile radius) from a renovated cupboard in the Tannahill Centre in Ferguslie Park. It was fantastic. School children, elderly groups, local hard core DJ’s, grannies singing karaoke – all were welcome and everyone came to the cupboard that we had imaginatively named ‘Studio 1’. Getting in my car, driving home at night waiting for the signal to drift out of range and sometimes reappear as the road lifted over the Kingston Bridge was quite emotional.

We had some very inventive people working in the station and I wasn’t surprised the day I found a full sized pub fruit machine sitting in the middle of Studio 1. ‘What’s this?’ I said to no one in particular. ‘Oh we thought it would be good for the breakfast show’ announced James who was lining up his next tune for the listeners. It turns out they had decided that an on air competition – ‘Spin the Paisley Puggie’ – was required to spice up the morning merriment. The fruit machine (or Puggie as they are known in this part of the world) would have a microphone placed closed to it – close enough so you could pick up the sound of the reels spinning. Callers to the show would then be invited to spin the ‘Paisley Puggie’ in an attempt to win a prize… Now, in my opinion that’s the sort of thing that makes radio a much better broadcasting medium than TV…

All the best – speak soon!


Wish I could be dancing now, In the arms of the girl I love…


‘Absolutely incredible & amazing – if you didn’t like it – you’re wrong!’

That’s what my son said when I asked him to review the latest Star Wars episode ‘The Last Jedi’. He had heard that some critics had been scathing while others had loved the movie. But of course I’m his father (‘I AM YOUR FATHER…’), so I like his review the best – he doesn’t leave you much room to disagree with his position does he? Nothing like being sure about something eh?!

This has been my first chance – and last chance of the year – to write a wee something following the ‘UK City of Culture 2021’ announcement. You’ll know that Paisley didn’t win (congrats to Coventry!) but we sure to goodness didn’t lose.

The bidding process, while celebrating Paisley’s rich heritage, began to write a new story for the town. To be honest though it’s actually hard to explain the impact bidding and being shortlisted has had on all of us, our partnerships, and particularly our communities. But when you come to Paisley you can feel it. Something special has started to happen and everyone is determined not to lose the momentum. We knew that had we won the title we would have delivered an exciting, authentic, and impactful City of Culture programme…and the programme would have positively impacted on the lives of many, many people across Paisley, Scotland, the UK and beyond. Although we will not have that opportunity, many of us I believe are now even more convinced of the power of culture to create positive change.

Although we weren’t awarded the title we need to keep reminding ourselves that we only came so close to winning by taking part in the first place. To be shortlisted as a town – the only town ever to do so – alongside 4 other cities, was a great achievement. The response from everyone following the announcement was so positive – and it’s been so encouraging in the weeks that have followed to hear everyone repeating the message, the mantra, that #OurJourneyContinues. And what a journey it has been so far – the passion, the joy, the pride, the people…and of course the town.

To end this little note (I hope he forgives me) I’m stealing my son’s words – because they make the most sense…

‘Paisley 2021’ – absolutely incredible & amazing – if you didn’t like it – you’re wrong!

All the best for Christmas & have a great 2018

Speak soon



Tall in this room overlooking the ocean Here are we, one magical movement…

Last week the judges who will decide which of the five shortlisted towns and cities will be named UK City of Culture 2021 came to Paisley. The judging panel, led by Chairman Phil Redmond, were given a tour of the town and they also visited a series of community groups and projects at the Tannahill Centre in Ferguslie Park.

The Tannahill Centre was – to put it politely – jumping. Acoustic guitarists, local sewing groups, and school folk sang out, made quilts and danced – sort of in that order – as the judges made their way through the vibrant, buzzing, community space. It was great to catch up with a number of folk on the day – some of whom I had worked with when I was a community artist and they had been children at the local schools. They were of course very happy to make me feel very old by pointing out their own children, who were now amongst the performers – all of whom were giving it ‘laldy’, singing their hearts out, just like their parents had done when they were kids.

Everyone there on the day representing the local communities did an amazing job of showing how much passion Paisley ‘Buddies’ have for their own culture, but they also demonstrated how excited the people of Paisley are about the opportunity of welcoming to their hometown other artists, cultural leaders and entertainers from across the UK and beyond.  For sure there were a lot of smiles, chat and energy in the Tannahill Centre on Tuesday – all of which I’m sure will not have been lost on the judges. Fingers crossed!

Don’t forget to back the bid –

All the best


The things that we have, are all that we need…

Paisley 2021 bid send off 29.9.17

I went up the ‘Toon’ today to watch the community sending off the final Paisley 2021 bid to London. And I’m not embarrassed to say that I was emotional. Definitely a curse that afflicts me, this emotion thing. I try to keep a lid on it but, you know, sometimes you just have to give in – sunshine, community choirs, weans smiling and waving flags & a sing song – ‘Will Ye Go, Lassie Go?’ – which is always a song to make you get all ‘emulsional’ as it’s called in my house… It was great – brilliant input from Tommy at Loud ‘n’ Proud (Godfather of Paisley Rawk!) and of course bid director Jean Cameron – ‘Oor Jean’ as folk seem to want to call her.

As the event concluded Jean popped the bid into the bag of the coolest courier ever – who was sitting astride a Paisley patterned ‘Vespa’ and off he rolled up the High Street. Not just cool…Paisley cool…

Really couldn’t ask for a better send off for the bid – a bid, which if it was a stick of rock, would have the words ‘community’ all the way through. There were a lot of smiles there today…and I’m sure there are more to come. Please show your support for Paisley’s bid – a bid, which in its ambition, aims to be truly transformational – @Paisley2021

‘STAR Project Poetry Competition 2017’

There’s been plenty of stars involved in the writing of the Paisley 2021 bid – none more so than the team of the mighty STAR Project. This week they launched their ‘STAR Project Poetry Competition 2017’. STAR Project have been asked to research, plan and create a short film about Paisley’s Grand Fountain, emphasising the positive transformation the fountain and its restoration has had on people’s lives – “It makes me smile”, “I love walking past it on the way to work”, & “I love the sounds of the Fountain” are some of the comments local people have made. As part of the work of the film they are looking for poems that celebrate the effect of culture on wellbeing – see here for more information:

Get your poems in – speak soon!