Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Paisley. UK Town of Culture. The Spirit of Christmas Past.

                                              ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN
As I've been through to Paisley several times in the past few months I thought I'd do a gallery on Scotland's largest town and hopeful UK City of Culture 2021 bidder in the run up to Christmas. Originally there were eleven towns and cities in the draw which soon got whittled down to five- Swansea, Paisley, Stoke on Trent, Sunderland and Coventry. It's a big tempting prize to play for as previous winners Londonderry and Hull experienced major investment projects and up to one billion pounds generated in funding and revenue for ongoing social and economic regeneration. In the end, despite Paisley being the bookies favourite the title went to Coventry but that's not why I,m doing this post.
For the past few years I've been going through to Paisley for the Christmas Lights as I think they have more to offer than Glasgow's. To my eye the Christmas lights around George Square just do not invoke the Christmas spirit I remember having as a child. The 'wonder' of Christmas. A bit too commercialized towards making money with rides instead of keeping it simple... or maybe its just I,m far too used to them.
Paisley is an interesting town for a visit anyway with a beautiful abbey, seen here in spring, an amazing town hall and a cracker of a church...
Coats Memorial Church. It also has a district on a hill top just above the main shopping area, full of period architecture, cobbled lanes, and interesting listed buildings. Thanks to its history as a major weaving, textile, cotton and thread hub, selling its goods world wide it was one of the richest towns in the UK up until the 1970s when its fortunes started to dwindle away. That's not to say the ordinary workers were getting rich as many were very poorly paid for their efforts, then as now, but money flowed steadily year by year into the town's coffers and many impressive public buildings during that era of growth reflected this fact. Good link here to Paisley's former glory as a world leader and an outsider look at this culture bid town.
 It does still have a legacy of amazing architecture though and is well worth a visit. Dozens of new colourful murals have sprung up around the town over the last year but I'll cover them in another post. This one is devoted to Paisley's Christmas lights.
With the large open grass spaces around the town hall and abbey plus the White Cart Water carving a winding path through the heart of this district it's a perfect situation for a more traditional Christmas show of lights..Also, they sit out on their own- away from any distracting commercial interests in a lovely display and setting. Families enjoy coming here and I used to love Paisley as a child myself. A visual Christmas treat. One memorable year the river and waterfalls were frozen solid and covered in thick ice and snow, with the falls illuminated. It had that magic extra ingredient  'wonder' and still does to this day.
My own special tribute to Paisley and the impressionist movement. See- you can paint pictures with a camera. Just takes some practice. My attempt at a camera version of Vincent's 'Starry Night'.

As my last light show walk along the banks of the River Clyde a few posts ago was apparently a big hit with friends Anne and Belinda I now had others in tow. Three young children called Rachel, James and Sam and two other adults- Jean and Peter. I was now a semi official tour guide to Paisley's City of Culture highlights so the pressure was on to show them the best the town had to offer.
Obviously a walk through the shopping district was a given while it was still light. Two main indoor shopping centres/ arcades and several streets of other shops await. A surprising amount for a town its size although like many post industrial high streets UK wide the internet and online shopping has punched holes in bricks and mortar stores worldwide. Smart phones and social media may yet kill off many social structures we take for granted that have lasted hundreds of years but that's a different story altogether. This is good Santa time.
Next to Gilmour Street Train Station a small area of children's rides and a large sky tower similar to the one in Edinburgh were under construction. The tower should give fantastic views over the town from the air, albeit from spinning chairs zooming round the high metal pole.
But if that's too energetic for you there's still a lovely wander around various decorated Christmas trees, illuminated buildings, and open spaces near the abbey and town hall. Paisley Town hall below.

Like any large town I'm sure Paisley has some anti- social elements in it but if you wander round between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm when it's still busy with shoppers it has a safe and friendly feel. Even late on I've never experienced any problems in Paisley just wandering around.
The Town Centre Park.
The church on the hill top. Oakshaw district.
Another view of the abbey. There are several parking opportunities around here on various quieter streets and car parks. free or on a meter. We paid £2 for 3 hours which was pretty good and enough time to see plenty as it was bitterly cold for the kids.
The big Santa.
Main shopping street lights.
Paisley street scene looking up towards Oakshaw on its hilltop.
Former thread mill on the river.
More lights. Shopping zone.
If you live in Glasgow or surrounding districts and fancy a colourful change Paisley's lights and murals are worth a visit. At this time of year you can arrive in daylight.(recommended if in a car and a stranger to Paisley's busy one way system through the town) see the murals, architecture and sights properly up until 3;30 pm then still be there to soak up the night time light show- all within 3 to 4 hours at an easy pace. Frequent trains and buses run from Glasgow to Paisley. We all enjoyed it anyway.

This video seems appropriate given the age of some of the tour group walking round Paisley. And it's near Christmas     :o)


Mike@Bit About Britain said...

I can see I need to get to Paisley, in a general way - but of course only in daylight. I know what you mean about Christmas lights - and George Square is always so damn busy! Everyone used to make a fuss about the lights in Regent Street, but they weren't always that great.

Linda W. said...

What beautiful Christmas lights!

Anabel Marsh said...

Such a shame Paisley didn’t win, but hopefully they can still put the work for the bid to good use. My mum lives in Paisley so I’m there a lot (right now in fact!)

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Mike,
Looking at some old 1950s photos recently of Christmas lights in George Square, Glasgow, it was more open plan to walk through then, pure, simple and...more festive somehow. For the last 10 or so years it's usually packed with small pay money rides and attractions and feels really cluttered somehow with the interior of the square out of bounds. Paisley's lights still have that elegant wide open outdoor setting around the abbey and river where young children have space to imagine and dark corners and shadows to dream. They loved the waterfall and the light show around the river, just like I did at that age. You need a bit of mystery to make it sparkle.

blueskyscotland said...

Thank you, Linda W. Not seen yours yet but Portland must have some good ones.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel,
Yes, it was as it could do with further investment in the town but seemingly they are going to forge ahead with improvement plans anyway. Maybe, as that BBC link I added suggested it was the lack of suitable hotels and trendy restaurants for visitors that ultimately scuppered it in the end. Not knowing Paisley intimately I'm not sure how many upmarket rooms it could offer trendy types if it had won UK city of culture as visitor numbers would have seen a big increase. Nearby Glasgow is packed with a huge variety of hotels and restaurants in every price range but I don't remember seeing many stand outs in Paisley.

Rosemary said...

The Christmas lights in Paisley are really rather special - the small town near where I live have nothing worth getting excited about.
Paisley should do a string of lights reflecting the 'paisley design' made famous on their fabrics.

Kay G. said...

Your photos are gorgeous!
LET IT GO....please, NO, don't even mention it! :-)

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary,
Might be a bit complicated to scale it up into Christmas lights. They do have wonderful ceramic Lions in the town with the old textiles on them.

blueskyscotland said...

What!!!! You don't like Frozen Kay? That's one of the few Disney films I really enjoyed. Great story, terrific animation, good songs and a girl that can do exceptional things with her hands- what's not to like :o)

surfnslide said...

I need to practice my night-time shots, these are great. Another wealth of information about a ton I only recognise from the road signs by the airport as I head to the mountains!

Carol said...

Very good-looking town that! I was in Kendal last night and the Christmas lights were lovely - I said to Richard it was a shame we hadn't taken the camera down there. They were very colourful, unlike the boring and cold white Christmas lights in Skipton!

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Andy,
It's a town worth a visit but only if it's a bus ride away. You might be disappointed on a weekend break although the museum is interesting. It's certainly got more in it than Hamilton or Motherwell but it is still only a post industrial large town not yet evolved into a tourist hub like York or Londonderry.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Carol,
Yeah, the Lake District towns are lovely at Christmas. It's something of a myth that you remember where you were when someone really famous dies as I can only remember three times as I was outside each time. One was Elvis as we were working right next to a house where Hound Dog got played constantly every three minutes for hours.Only reason we guessed he was dead. Second was Marc Bolan's date with a tree and I was in a freind's house when the news came on. Third was Princess Diana as I was down in Ambleside at the time and we wondered why nearly everyone (women anyway) seemed to be crying or in subdued mood as we waked around the town.