Celebrating Scottish Women, a Paisley Workshop 

Yesterday was one of those days which leaves you glowing with contentment for hours afterwards. We were delighted to be asked to host a workshop at the Paisley Arts Centre for the Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (TH.CARS2) by the chap running the scheme, Colin Begg. The aim of the TH.CARS2 scheme is to “improve historic properties and streetscape to help regeneration of Paisley”, and it involves a heritage education programme as well as grants for building repairs and shopfront improvements.  As passionate heritage nerds protecting our built heritage is very important to us so we were really pleased to be involved, although high-vis and hard hats weren’t necessary for our workshop yesterday, all attendees needed was a desire to celebrate the women who’ve made Paisley great and be up for a good blether.

We were joined in the town square before the workshop by Gillian from BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland Show and we had a chat about the lack of statues in Scotland which celebrate women and how problematic that is.

 

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Gillian’s snap of us and Queen Vic in Paisley

 

The workshop was noisy and busy and full of laughter, and our participants were from a brilliant range of backgrounds, from academics to sculptors, and we were pleased to see that everyone was very willing to share their fantastic ideas. Our aims for the day were to promote discussion and allow participants to network; sharing ideas and making everyone think about how, Paisley’s people should celebrate their women, as well as empowering them to feel that as a community their opinions and ideas matter, and can ultimately make all the difference.

 

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The workshop in full flow, photograph taken by Rachael.

 

After an introductory talk from myself and Karen, we set everyone to work, it was a workshop after all. We tasked groups of participants with selecting a woman from Paisley, living or dead, and then come up with a way to celebrate her which suited not only the woman herself, but also suit Paisley. We had some fantastic ideas; from interactive displays which showed the conditions which paisley’s working class women have laboured under, from mills to munitions factories, to a children’s festival in celebration of Agnes Russell’s pioneering Russell Institute. What linked each of the suggested celebrations, whether tangible or intangible, was that everyone wanted more than just a statue. Community outreach, legacy, and engagement were all buzzwords used by us all, as making something meaningful, lasting and impactful were the acknowledged shared aims.

 

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One group presents their idea to us all, photograph taken by Karen.

 

We were inspired by the positive and forward-thinking views of our participants, and we can’t wait to see what will happen next in Paisley, it is a town made by strong women and we really hope that the City of Culture 2021 bid is successful. Paisley has had a global impact on industry and has a fascinating history which covers a bit of everything; medieval royalty, witches, marmalade, and paisley patterned shawls. What’s next is anyone’s guess but by the sounds of it the people of Paisley have everything under control.

Listen to the Good Morning Scotland show here, we are about 49 minutes in.

Contact the TH.CARS2 Project Team at th.cars@renfreshire.gov.uk.

-Rachael

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