The Tannahill Centre in Ferguslie Park Paisley was the setting for a lively discussion on January 23rd. The session brought together community activists, former workers, a local politician and interested academics to look at material gathered on the Paisley Community Development Project (1971- 1978) as part of the Imagine Programme.
The materials provided a focus for sharing great stories, reminiscences and reflections on then, now, and ideas for the future. Key messages were the fact that the Community Development Project (CDP) built on what was already a well organised and active community and that it laid the ground work for the series of different initiatives that followed in Ferguslie Park. None of these, people thought, have tackled the fundamental issues in the area. Levels of community activism then and now were discussed, as were the obstacles that currently have to be overcome to build connections and organise in communities. The drastic reduction in the level of resources available to support such activity in communities was highlighted; the Ferguslie Park community library that was one of 26 in Renfrewshire with a staff of 11, is now one of three, with a staff of two.
The dialogue will continue. It will look at how the materials on the CDP might form the basis for an educational resource/ exhibition. This will record the bigger story of the strength, spirit and tradition of activism among the people of Ferguslie Park but also acknowledge the lack of progress in an area that was the most deprived area of all the CDPs in 1972, and was still the single most deprived area in the Scottish Index for Multiple Deprivation in 2016.
A further session is being held in the Kinning Park Complex in Glasgow on March 2nd. This will share materials on the Kinning Park Women’s Co-operative Guild, which was the first in Scotland founded in 1890. The Guild attracted 200 members in its first year and by 1906 had a membership of 1199. Activists in the Kinning Park complex, which was saved from closure by a 55 day occupation by local women, had no knowledge of this history and are interested to see how it might contribute to their future plans. The session will be part of a series of activities around International Women’s Day and ideas for a permanent exhibition, an open call to local artists to respond to the materials and using them as a starting point for further research, are all being considered.
The materials and sessions have been developed as part of her PhD research by Sue Rawcliffe at the University of Strathclyde. The research is looking at communities and their involvement in social welfare in the West of Scotland over the last 200 years. It is funded as part of Imagine. For further information – Sue.firstname.lastname@example.org.