You can never get enough – Enough of this stuff…

My, my it’s warm oot there… How’s your Friday been?

A couple of weeks back I had a great Friday. The day started off with a visit to my kids’ school were I enjoyed a right, cultural performance. They’ve been looking at what it means to support people who are different to you – big messages – but they carried it off superbly.   And I’m no fan of ‘Take That’ but 50 or so young folk singing ‘Giants’ can bring a tear to yir eye…I lied and said it was hay fever…

After that it was on to Tweedie Hall for the Renfrewshire Disability Arts Forum’s “Art and Health” Exhibition. A brilliant exhibition of photographs launched in singing and dancing style. Brilliant. A highlight for me was the performance by Dirty Feet Dance Co. The exhibition is on now! For more information on the work of the Forum see here:


Our Paisley 2021 City of Culture bid Director, Jean Cameron, was there. Jean was without doubt mightily impressed by the artist’s work that was on show and of course the City of Culture bid will bring brilliant opportunities for developing the profile around this group and their superb work.

And finally I had a great night at the University of West of Scotland’s Music Showcase & Awards – a red carpet event focused on rewarding and recognizing the finest works, the most connected students and the best artistic approaches. The talent on show was top notch, and the event itself – compered by the legendary Davie Scott – was great fun. I was left feeling very optimistic about the music scene in Paisley, Renfrewshire & Scotland – and the film & TV industry should also be in good hands.

Needless to say by the end of that Friday I felt cultured & emotional as well as tired, but happy – however, never let it be said that even when I’m wrung oot that I miss the chance to grab myself a #Paisley2021 selfie.


UK Digital Leaders Awards

Renfrewshire Council, Roar: Connections for Life, YMCA Paisley and Craig Steele of Coderdojo Scotland have all been short-listed for the prestigious UK Digital Leaders 100 Awards. These awards recognise individuals and teams across public, private and non-profit organisations who are blazing a trail within digital transformation. Of the 100 short-listed this year, just 16 were from Scotland and three from here in Renfrewshire. Winners are decided by a mix of public vote and a judging panel – so every vote counts!

To Vote:

  1. click on this DL100 link!
  2. enter your email address
  3. tick your winner for the category
  4. select the next category (10 in total, you don’t need to vote in all)

The categories we need your support for are:
Cross-Sector Digital Collaboration of the Year – Roar: Connections for Life
Digital Council of the Year – Renfrewshire Council
Digital Charity of the Year – YMCA Paisley
Digital Leader of the Year – Craig Steele (the only Scottish nomination)

For more information on Renfrewshire’s nominations click here.

And with that I’m away to enjoy the sunshine – Tara fir noo…



Or maybe you’ll think that love will make us fools, And so it makes you wise to break the rules…


Here comes the sun…

As we move into May and proper Spring may be springing you may be thinking of making some lifestyle changes. Learn Spanish, cycle to Land’s End or eat more greens. Whatever you do, try to be less critical of yourself. Leave that to everyone else to do on your behalf

In the mid-90’s I was working as a Community Arts Officer in Ferguslie Park, Paisley. Part of the regeneration work in the area included the development of the Tannahill Centre which we were delighted to use as cultural facility as it lends itself very well to large community events. I was lucky in that there were a number of highly motivated community volunteers around and other skilled community officers working in the place. Together we put on some great events which we marketed in a range of ways with varying degrees of success.

I remember one event and the poster I designed for it very well. Elvis – ‘America has had 42 presidents…but only one King’ was the tag-line. In the middle of the poster was an image of the ‘Hillbilly Cat’ in all his pomp and below that we had all the info:

‘Elvis Night! Elvis Quiz, Elvis fancy dress competition, Elvis film Clips, Live Elvis Tribute band and local Elvis impersonators.

The King will be in the building – ALL NIGHT LONG!

Two quid a ticket.’

The 300 available tickets sold out fast. The King is very popular in Paisley and on the night it went great. Everyone had a blast. Women in huge crinoline dresses bopped and hopped with guys in ‘Fonzie’ leather jackets. Superb.

Anyway, right at the end of the night I noticed one of the local team making his way through the throng towards me.  This guy was good at telling you what he thought of any event – so I was bracing myself!

‘Alan’ he said ‘that was one of the best nights we ever had here. Have to hand it to you big man. You thought of everything. Fantastic!’ At this point my mouth was hanging open in shock but I managed to murmur a ‘Thank you. Thank you very much…’

‘If I could just make one point though?’ ‘Yes of course’ says I. He then hits me with the quote I’ll take to my grave… ‘It was a brilliant night…but there was too much Elvis…’

Voluntary Arts Festival

Voluntary Arts Festival takes place each May, in cities, towns and villages across the UK and Republic of Ireland. It’s a chance for people to get creative – share what they already do, or try something new for the first time. Creativity comes in many forms, from music and singing to visual art and craft, digital art and drama to cooking and gardening. However you choose to express yourself, you can take part in Voluntary Arts Festival from 5 – 14 May 2017.
For more information see here:
Paisley 2021 – The Story So Far…
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Lunchtime Blues Bash for 2021

Paisley’s bid for City of Culture 2021 was submitted this week. There has been many highs throughout the last 15 months and, I wont lie, I found myself getting quite emotional looking at the ‘The Story So Far…’

And a very recent highlight has to be Paisley’s Baker Street saxophone event – the film is a treat! Just press the link here – 

So, if you’re out and about this bank holiday weekend, blow your horn for Paisley 2021!

All the best




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:

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

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:

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:

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!