Paisley Museum has received funding to work with community groups

A major funding grant will help Scotland’s largest cultural heritage project work with local community groups to help widen access to museum and art.

As part of Paisley Museum’s £45 million refurbishment, the project team behind the overhaul has been working with groups from the local area and internationally to create story displays. Now a £100,000 grant from Esmee Fairbairns Collection Fund will help the museum continue to develop its community ties as part of a broader learning and engagement programme.

Two of the organisations Paisley Museum has worked with provide a voice and support for Scotland’s African diaspora. The team worked with Jambo Radio – Scotland’s only radio station for people of African and Caribbean heritage – and Pachedu, a charity which promotes diversity and dignity for diverse communities.

Johannes Gonani from Pachedu runs the School of African Cultures which helps children and young people of African heritage to rise above negative stereotypes they see and hear at school or on social media. Johannes said:

Working with the museum we’ve been able to show Africa’s contribution to world civilisation. Many of our community didn’t feel museums were for them until they went into the museum space – but once they saw the collection they lit up talking about how an object linked to their grandmother’s stories and, from there, it was amazing.”

The partnership work will build on previous activity focussed on children and young people, providing positive narratives that challenge some of the often-stigmatising perceptions of the African continent. George Tah from Jambo Radio has been providing people with training and skills in broadcast, especially young people.

Jambo Radio has been working with the museum across a number of heritage projects, including bringing new perspectives to a significant artwork by the late John Byrne. George welcomed the investment by Esmee Fairbairn and said:

“This will allow us to build on the work we’ve been doing before and that is very important, because it needs to continue. We don’t want to lose all of the effort and momentum of the last 18 months. I would like to think that we have got unfinished business as far as identifying certain aspects of the museum and linking them to our everyday life and bringing life into those objects.”

Neil Bristow, Public Programme Manager at OneRen, which is delivering the museum refurbishment on behalf of Renfrewshire Council, said:

“We’re delighted to have received this backing from the Esmee Fairbairn Collection Fund. Paisley Museum will be a world-class attraction with community at its heart and, with collections from across the world, it’s critical that we engage with communities, such as the African diaspora, to ensure their stories and insight are reflected in our work.”

Aileen Strachan, Content Delivery Manager at OneRen, said:

“This funding will allow us to further strengthen our partnership so communities are genuinely shaping every aspect of the museum service, from the objects we collect and display to the programmes and spaces we provide.

Johannes added:

“I can’t wait for the museum to open; there are so many possibilities. Working with young people is our passion, giving them opportunity and a voice and ownership of the process. Together we’re building a legacy and that is so important.”