We Are The Walrus!

Paisley’s Grand Fountain resides in the historic Fountain Gardens, the oldest public gardens in Paisley, based in the North End of the town. It was gifted by the Coats family in 1868 and has been the centrepiece of the Fountain Gardens ever since. It was painstakingly brought back to its original Victorian splendour in 2014 and has received no fewer than 5 awards since its restoration. The restoration Project cost £650,000 and was funded by Renfrewshire Council, Historic Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers Award for the Conservation of an Industrial Artefact came in late 2015. This brought with it a cash prize of £2,500 awarded jointly to Renfrewshire Council, Lost Art and Industrial Heritage Consulting Ltd and Historic Environment Scotland.  In agreement with the other named prize winners, Renfrewshire Council tasked STAR Project to research, plan and create a short film emphasising the positive transformation and to be influenced by The Legend of Paisley Croc, the Projects previous community made film about the Fountain Gardens.

STAR Project: The film will express what the judges found special about this particular restoration project, namely its huge impact on the community, and that it encapsulates the concept of engineering as both science and art, and provides a sense of pride and a feel-good factor.  

STAR Project believe that the positive transformation of the Grand Fountain improves wellbeing, both at the personal and the community level, enhancing community ownership and pride of place. People have said, “It makes me smile”, I love walking past it on the way to work”, “I love the sounds of the Fountain”, “It’s relaxing to watch it”, “It feels special to have it on your doorstep”, “It’s like having a big fountain in your back garden”.

Initial ideas through consultation ranged from our Paisley Croc character interviewing people to the concept of a pop up book style animation, having the film start in black and white before transforming into colour to represent the before and after of the restoration, and having a different mysterious fountain ‘creature’ come to life. We also felt it was important to have the themes of the project, engineering as science and art, improved wellbeing, embedded into activities throughout STAR as this gives a strong message of relevance, cohesiveness, wider potential impact of outcomes, builds understanding and interest, and enhances community ownership.

With this in mind, we have delivered various activities within existing groups including; Engineering for toddlers and Creating Crocs (Wee STARs Toddler Group), Picture This -Community Mapping (STAR Striders walking group), InCOGnito and Reclaim your Inspiration-World Mental Health Day (Therapeutic Art Workshops), Celebrating Divali (Culture Bite).

We also recruited a visual artist, Mandy McIntosh, to work with us to pull our ideas together and decide on the direction our film should take. We established that community ownership was a huge part of this project and that many local people feel that the Grand Fountain, as well as other Paisley assets, belong to all of us. We established a Paisley Poetry Competition for all ages based on the Grand Fountains impact on wellbeing, and we have set up interviews with those involved during the restoration. We have engaged people through social media extensively and feel it’s important to maintain a digital element to the project.

To date, the half way point, the project has engaged with over 80 community members in 16 different ways and we’ve collaborated/had discussions with various partners such as; Renfrewshire Mental Health Arts Festival, Create Paisley, Listen Think Draw, Tannahill Centre, Paisley 2021, Lost Art and Industrial Heritage Consulting Ltd, UWS, West College Scotland, and Mossvale Primary and Nursery.

Our film will be called ‘We are the Walrus’ and there’s already been publicity and a lot of interest around the forthcoming Walrus procession that will take place on November 25th, another great opportunity to engage the public in a fun and informative way. We particularly like that St Mathews Church offered to lay on tea, coffee, and wild Walrus food for the procession. We’re excited for the next stage of the project!

The film will be complete by Christmas and we hope to have a public premiere in January 2018.

Updated: November 15, 2017