News From Elsewhere: Paisley City of Culture 2021 – Songs to Back the Bid

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“The Saturday morning busking experience was a microcosm of the features that make Paisley special and such a strong contender for the bid.”

Lisa Kowalski is a young Scottish singer, songwriter, and performer. A huge Taylor Swift fan, Lisa celebrated her idol’s ten year anniversary as a performer by bringing together ‘Swifties’ in both Glasgow and Edinburgh. Here Lisa talks about her support for Paisley’s bid to become UK City of Culture 2021.

Part of a wider push to use the town’s unique cultural and heritage story to transform its future, organizers hope that a successful bid by Paisley for UK City of Culture 2021 will deliver audiences, jobs, an increase in the quality of life, and a renewed sense of civic pride.

You can read Iona Young’s review of Ten Years of Taylor Swift Show (organised by Lisa) here.

As a 16 year old aspiring singer songwriter from Paisley, the announcement that I had been successful in my application for a grant from the Paisley 2021 Culture and Heritage fund was clearly great news. I was one of a limited number of successful applicants and was awarded a grant to fund the recording of an EP.

Having started busking regularly on the High Street a year or so previously, I of course considered myself to be a key part of the town’s cultural scene! The Saturday morning busking experience was a microcosm of the features that make Paisley special and such a strong contender for the bid.

From the start, a strong sense of community surrounded me, as I struck up a friendship with the local Big Issue seller, the Salvation Army collector and the security guard from the store next to my pitch. The economic challenges that the town has faced were clearly on display, with many of the stores behind me lying empty and the folk passing in front sometimes showing signs of troubled lives. Despite this and the often cold and wet weather, busking on the High Street soon became one of my favourite things in the world to do.


The people of Paisley welcomed me as the youngest female busker to regularly brave the wilds of the High Street, even tolerating the fact my initial busking set was 80% early Taylor Swift songs that they didn’t know! They smiled, danced and gave generously, commenting on social media that I brightened up the town centre.

This led to me penning a song about my Paisley busking experience – with the chorus “The streets are paved with Hearts of Gold”, which features on the EP that has been funded by the 2021 linked grant. It has taken about a year from the date of being awarded the grant to complete the EP project and along the way I have ridden a huge wave of support from the town and the people of Paisley. St Mirren FC has invited me several times to sing at the stadium, and local promoters , sound technicians, photographers and record studios have all offered time and advice. Local press and social media sites have also rallied round and I am often invited to perform in the town pubs and at various community events.


This experience it seems to be sums up the reasons why Paisley is a strong contender for the bid. I am certainly not your perfect, X factor ready pop star any more than Paisley is a thriving, chic, good to go tourist destination but we have in common enthusiasm, character, and an open and friendly heart. Paisley wants to win in order to better itself and give the town’s population hope and pride and that’s certainly what the town’s support has given me. The title track of my Paisley 2021 funded EP Free Spirits includes the lyrics – “So you can try and take our pride, or honey you can join us for the ride, either way, you will watch me rise.”

I would say the same to anyone who doubts that the Paisley 2021 bid is a worthwhile venture. While the town faces strong competition, the work that has gone in to the bid has already made the town’s heart beat faster and toes are tapping along to the rhythm of community, hope and pride.