Paving the way with Victoria Hollows, Renfrewshire Leisure Chief Executive
As Paisley begins to re-emerge from a Covid-19-induced slumber, Victoria Hollows, Chief Executive of Renfrewshire Leisure, explains why there’s plenty for residents to get excited about.
As a charitable trust, how exciting is it for Renfrewshire Leisure to be involved in projects such as Paisley Town Hall and the museum’s redevelopment?
“It’s extremely exciting. Obviously, none of us could have foreseen the awful circumstances of this year. However, I think it’s important that we look at the positives whenever possible and Paisley has a great deal to look forward to.
“It’s fair to say the scale of these projects is really unprecedented. Take the transformation of the £42 million redevelopment Paisley Museum, for example. We have a fantastic opportunity to deliver a completely revitalised landmark that will be a fully accessible social hub for local people.
“Few places of Paisley’s size have had such a global impact and the museum’s redevelopment will allow us to tell its stories with more impact than ever before. When it reopens, the number of objects on display will have increased by 100 per cent and our team is looking forward to working with the whole community to make this project into the success it deserves to be.
“The transformation of Paisley Town Hall is another great example of Renfrewshire’s ambition. This building is a Grade A-listed Victorian gem. Once finished, we are excited to collaborate with an even greater range of artists, performers and others to enrich the area’s cultural landscape. Individually and collectively, these developments have the potential to uplift the lives of the people we’re so privileged to serve.”
What difference do you believe these projects will make in fulfilling Paisley’s potential?
“Each development is designed to unlock the unique cultural credentials of the town, telling stories which are crying out to be told. We are elated to be working with Renfrewshire Council to fully realise the area’s cultural capabilities.
“Economically, culturally, socially and in regards to wellbeing, each major project could be transformational. They are designed to enrich the community in so many ways, creating opportunities for local people and broadening horizons. We are taking the grit and determination that shaped Paisley and using that as a firm foundation to build our future. Over the next 30 years, researchers have estimated the museum will provide a £79m economic boost, so those figures highlight just what an important part culture and leisure play in Renfrewshire’s economic life.
“We’re keen for the museum, town hall and our other venues to be catalysts for supporting the businesses around them. It’s really important that we are a great neighbour to our local enterprise, so we’re looking forward to allotting visitors the opportunity to sample some of the great hospitality we have on our doorstep.”
“As a non-profit organisation, any surpluses from our operational activity are used to support community services for those who need them most”
Renfrewshire Leisure’s charitable trust status often goes underpublicised. Could you detail how this relationship between leisure and cultural services improves lives?
“It is fair to say that many people don’t realise Renfrewshire Leisure is an independent charitable trust, but that’s exactly what we are and we’re extremely proud of it. This designation gives us a platform to deliver the remarkable breadth of work we’re involved in, ranging from specialist community health and support services to accessible, affordable gyms and swimming pools or the amazing array of amenities provided by libraries and wider cultural offerings.
“As a non-profit organisation, any surpluses from our operational activity are used to support community services for those who need them most. So, the intertwined relationship between our leisure and cultural services is critical in making a positive difference to lives across Renfrewshire. Not all of this work is very visible, so it’s really important for us to let people know that when they support our services, by taking out a membership, or coming to a class, they’re not just backing a venue, but ensuring that we can support our communities.”
How is recovery looking for Renfrewshire Leisure in a post Covid-19 world?
“The safety of our staff and customers is our number one priority. My team and I have been clear on that from the moment we closed in-person services and facilities prior to the national lockdown.
“What we’re doing currently – in line with Scottish government guidelines – is reopening venues and restarting services as it’s deemed safe to do so. Our teams have been working tirelessly and I’ve been overwhelmed by their continued commitment, enthusiasm and energy during such difficult times. The innovation that they’ve shown in delivering digital services has been pivotal in reaching as many people as possible.
“The real message is that we are here for you as your local provider of key cultural, physical and wellbeing services. We’re extremely grateful to all of our members, customers and stakeholders for their continued patience and support as we work our way through all of this in the safest way possible.”
Keep up with Renfrewshire Leisure online. This interview was published in Mill issue 10 September/October 2020.