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Free outdoor spectacle to transform historic Scottish abbey for launch of UK-wide culture celebration


The historic heart of Paisley will take centre-stage in a week-long event combining state-of-the art projection mapping technology with poetry, music and choral singing.

Billed as an “exhilarating journey” from the dawn of the universe with the Big Bang to the present day, About Us will explore the links between the cosmos, the natural world and the human race.

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The free, unticketed event will unfold on the walls of the cathedral and on temporary illuminated plinths that will be installed outside the 12th-century building, which has previously been used as a concert venue.

Paisley’s historic abbey will be transformed by a free outdoor spectacle which will open a UK-wide celebration of culture next month.

Company 59 Productions, the firm behind a series of spectacular opening events for the Edinburgh International Festival, is masterminding About Us, which will feature live performances each night from the Paisley Philharmonic Choir, the City of Glasgow Chorus and the Strathclyde University Chamber Choir.

Poems and animations created by young people from across Renfrewshire will feature in the immersive outdoor experience, which will see 25-minute shows staged between 7pm and 9:15pm from February 28 until March 6.

Key collaborators in the project include award-winning musician and composer Nitin Sawhney, who has created a new score for About Us, Scots Makar Kathleen Jamie, and mathematician, author and broadcaster Rachel Riley.

About Us, one of ten new cultural projects which will be staged across the UK in 2022, will launch the £120 million Unboxed festival, instigated by the UK Government after the Brexit referendum, but since backed by the devolved administrations.

Paisley’s historic abbey will be transformed by a free outdoor spectacle which will open a UK-wide celebration of culture.

Lysander Ashton, the 59 Productions director, said: “About Us has been a unique collaborative process bringing together poets, scientists, musicians, visual artists and schoolchildren.

“All of these unique voices have contributed to create a dazzlingly rich composite view of the extraordinary universe we all share.

“About Us is an invitation to experience a world where you are made of stars, you’re built from a trillion intricate cells working in harmony, you are related to dinosaurs and you can make a connection to a billion people with the press of a button.”

Martin Green, chief creative officer of Unboxed, which will run across the UK until October, said: “It’s incredibly exciting to open Unboxed, the UK’s most ambitious celebration of creativity to date, in Paisley with About Us and, quite literally, a Big Bang.

Paisley’s historic abbey will be transformed by About Us, a free outdoor spectacle which will open a UK-wide celebration of culture. Image: 59 Productions

“It’ll show us what can be achieved when we harness the creative power of scientists, technicians, producers, musicians, poets and mathematicians to produce and present a truly extraordinary and inspirational experience that audiences, and the choirs and young people who have contributed, will never forget.”

Other Unboxed projects to be staged in Scotland include Dandelion, which will will combine food growing initiatives with music.

The Dreamachine, an immersive kaleidoscopic light experience that visitors will experience with their eyes close, will visit Edinburgh, where Polinations – a project to create a “monumental pop-up forest garden” – will be launched in the form a 40ft tall “supertree”.

Iconic Scottish landmarks are expected to feature in Green Space Dark Skies, which will see dramatic chains of light created across the UK.

Paisley’s historic abbey will be transformed by About Us, a free outdoor spectacle which will open a UK-wide celebration of culture. Image: 59 Productions
Paisley’s historic abbey will be transformed by About Us, a free outdoor spectacle which will open a UK-wide celebration of culture. Image: 59 Productions



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