Paisley minister welcomes UK City of Culture bid shortlisting

Paisley Abbey
Paisley Abbey

The minister of Paisley Abbey is relishing the prospect of the town becoming the UK City of Culture in 2021.

Rev Alan Birss said the accolade would create many exciting opportunities to welcome more people into the A-listed, 850-year-old church.

He spoke out after the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport confirmed that Paisley is the only Scottish community competing for the prestigious title against Coventry, Stoke, Sunderland and Swansea.

Mr Birss said the Abbey had been actively involved in many projects around Paisley’s City of Culture bid, which was launched in the building.

“I am delighted that Paisley has been short-listed for UK City of Culture 2021," he added.

“The Abbey is very supportive of the bid.”


The status bid is part of a wider push to use the town’s unique heritage and cultural story as the home of the globally-recognised Paisley Pattern to transform its future.

It is estimated the status could bring a £172million economic boost to Paisley and create the equivalent of 4,700 jobs over a ten-year period.

Current UK City of Culture hosts Hull has seen £1 billion of investment since winning the title in 2013, with the city attracting 1.4million visitors in just the first three months of its year in the spotlight.

Mr Birss said: “The bid process has already produced very good results for the town, not just in terms of events taking place, but also in terms of generating a positive, optimistic atmosphere and pride in Paisley.

“The Abbey has been actively involved in many of the projects surrounding the bid to date including being the venue for the launch of the bid, for the Spree Arts Festival and for Paisley Make, an initiative that promotes Scottish design such as clothing and jewellery.

“Given our central location in the town and our long history as 'Paisley’s Abbey’ where so often people come together for religious and secular purposes, the bid for City status offers us many opportunities to reach out to the community and welcome them into the Abbey in Christ’s name.

“To the Abbey all are welcome and no-one is an outsider.”

Alan Birss
Rev Alan Birss

The UK Government is expected to announce the successful bid in December.

Mr Birss said Paisley Abbey, known as the cradle of the Royal House of Stewart, was at the heart of many community events throughout the years.

It forms the backdrop to the British start of the Monte Carlo rally, the venue for Renfrewshire’s Armed Forces Day celebrations and the centre of the Sma’ Shot Day event, which mark the town’s Paisley’s weaving past.

Mr Birss said: “The Abbey is also an important part of the town’s remarkable Hallowe’en Festival and Christmas lights switch-on.”

Plans have been drawn up to rebuild the 4th cloister of the Abbey and refurbish the interior to create an innovative and interactive visitor centre, a café and contemporary space for functions, events and community activities


Church of Scotland missionary Jane Haining worked as a secretary at JP Coats threadmaking factory in Paisley for 10 years before she moved to Budapest, Hungary in 1932 to become the matron at the Scottish Mission girls boarding school.

In 1944, Hungarian allies of the Nazis discovered she was harbouring Jewish girls and she was arrested.

Miss Haining, who grew up near Dunscore in Dumfrieshire, was taken to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death campaign where she died at the age of 47.

Paisley Abbey hosted a civic reception in honour of Miss Haining’s niece, Deirdre McDowell, who visited the town in April.

Renfrewshire’s Provost Anne Hall said: “It is important that we remember the inspirational story of Jane Haining.”