100-day campaign launches to save iconic Scottish Baptist church building

An iconic Scottish Baptist church building could be saved from ruin and transformed into a modern multi-purpose venue in plans unveiled today.

The former Coats Memorial Baptist Church in Paisley closed as a church last October following years of declining attendance and rising costs.

Completed in 1894 after an architectural competition won by Hippolyte Jean Blanc, it is regarded as one of the finest Baptist church buildings in Europe. Dominating the town's skyline with its distinctive crown-shaped spired, it seated around 1,000 people and features mosaics, marble and alabaster decorations as as well as a William Hill organ with more than 3000 pipes.

The re-imagined Coats Memorial Baptist Church.

It was erected in memory of Thomas Coats (1809-83), co-founder of the Coats thread company and a noted local philanthropist.

An official campaign has been launched today, signalled by a performance from Paisley Opera, to save Coats Memorial for the town. A team of fundraisers aim to raise £1.5million to breathe new life into the church in just 100 days.

Plans include the construction of a single storey ticketing/booking office, landscaped gardens, a car park with space for 30 vehicles, a demountable performance stage, theatre seating for events and banquets, audio/visual rigs for specialist cinema evenings and a 400kg lift to provide disabled access between the church floor and ballroom.

As part of the 100-day campaign, Coats Memorial has enlisted the talent of world-renowned tapestry artist, Andrew Crummy. He has begun a Tapestry of Paisley Icons, paying homage to the town's most famous sons and daughters.

Featured on the bespoke tapestry is Thomas Coats, the original Paisley icon, without whom Coats Memorial and many other public spaces and buildings in the town would not exist.

Also immortalised in the artwork are; Gerry Rafferty; John Byrne; Gerard Butler; Paolo Nutini; Mhairi Black; Phyllis Logan and David Tennant.

Ian Henderson, Coats Memorial Steering Group member said: On behalf of the Steering Group, I can say that we have been truly humbled by the support of people like Andrew and those involved in the Tapestry of Renfrewshire for lending their talents to our community campaign.

'We hope this bespoke piece of artwork will attract thousands of visitors to Coats Memorial during the 100 days so that they can stitch a piece of history. Who knows, perhaps even some of our Paisley Icons will even make an appearance themselves.'

Crummyrtist said: 'We are thrilled that this will be the home of the tapestry. We believe it is the perfect fit. The Tapestry is being stitched using over 8000 donations of Anchor Threads that have been given by hundreds of local people.

'"These threads are a direct legacy of the Coats family. The tapestry will also be a celebration of the skills and creativity of those that will stitch the tapestry.'

Throughout the 100 days campaign Coats Memorial will also host performances by Paisley Opera, PACE Theatre Company, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and University of West Scotland Choir, with many more to be confirmed.