One of Scotland’s most senior cultural figures will lead the work to transform Paisley’s future using its unique cultural and heritage story – and says the town can show the way for the rest of the UK.
Leonie Bell – the Scottish Government’s Head of Culture Strategy and Cultural Engagement – will this autumn join Renfrewshire Council in the newly-created post of Paisley Partnership Strategic Lead.
Her role will be to build on the momentum of Paisley’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2021 and lead the next stage of the town’s ongoing transformation into a vibrant cultural destination.
She is currently working on the government’s flagship cultural strategy for Scotland – having been seconded from her previous role as Director of Arts and Engagement at Creative Scotland.
And having supported Paisley’s UK City of Culture 2021 bid, she has seen first-hand what the town has to offer. Leonie said: “I am so excited to get started. Paisley is brimming with potential – and it can lead the way for the rest of UK in showing how a town can use culture to transform itself.
Photo: Leonie Bell Credit: Renfrewshire Council
“My early jobs in Glasgow gave me a real sense of the power of culture to change how people relate to where they live. Culture offers so many opportunities for communities – it is fundamental to who we are and why we are.
“Paisley is such a deeply and distinct cultural town – both in terms of its history and contemporary culture. You only need to walk around it for five minutes to see that – with such wonderful buildings and spaces as the Abbey and the town hall.
“The Paisley 2021 bid was so inspiring and impressive in its ambition and commitment and the way it was community driven. Paisley can still continue that bid journey and reimagine itself, and it can now do that on its own terms.”
Leonie will bring a vast range of contacts and experience to Paisley after a 20-year career at the forefront of the arts in Scotland, including stints at Glasgow: UK City of Architecture and Design, and as programme director at The Lighthouse: Scotland’s Centre for Architecture and the City.
Before joining Creative Scotland, she led the Scottish cultural programme for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and paved the way for its Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games equivalent.
In her new role she will lead the delivery of a far-reaching 2021 bid legacy plan, bringing together local, Scottish and UK groups to harness the power of culture to impact on education, health, poverty and wellbeing across Renfrewshire – and to help make those benefits available to all.
The Paisley Partnership Legacy Board includes representation from the council and local community plus University of the West of Scotland, West College Scotland, Glasgow Airport, the NHS, Creative Scotland, Glasgow School of Art, Young Scot, Scottish Enterprise, and Arts and Business Scotland.
It is a continuation of the board which governed the UK City of Culture 2021 bid but will continue to meet to take forward the town’s legacy plan, to which Renfrewshire Council and other partners have already committed funding and other resource.
That plan includes a £100m investment in Paisley town centre venues, including the £42m project to turn Paisley Museum into a world-class facility; new events and festivals for the area’s existing major events programme; and investment in building the area’s cultural capacity and creative economy.
Renfrewshire Council Leader Iain Nicolson – who chairs the Paisley Partnership Legacy Board – added: “We warmly welcome Leonie to Paisley later in the year and believe her experience and passion make her the ideal person to lead the next phase of Paisley’s ongoing transformation.
“For us to have attracted someone highly regarded in Scotland’s cultural sector is a major coup for the town which shows the extent to which it is now viewed as a key destination.”