It was one of the worst tragedies ever to strike any Scottish community and it killed scores of children.
Even now, more than 90 years later, families in Paisley still talk about the Glen Cinema disaster on Hogmanay in 1929 when a smoking film canister caused a panic during a packed matinee where more than 600 youngsters were present.
The main exit doors had a metal gate that had been pulled shut, stopping it from opening, which led to a crush where 71 children died.
News of the disaster was far-reaching with letters of condolence being sent to the town from people across the globe.
The impacts were global as well: the Cinematograph Act 1909 was amended to ensure all cinemas had more exits, doors opened outwards and were fitted with push bars. A limitation was also placed on the capacity of cinemas and a requirement for an appropriate number of adults to be present to ensure the safety of children.
Two artists have now been commissioned to create a public artwork to commemorate the victims and survivors of the horrific incident.
Kerry Stewart and Rachel Lowther have been chosen to work with community groups to develop a tribute to the disaster as a reminder of its lasting impact on the town.
Mrs Lowther said: “As a mother, I was immediately moved by the terrible story of what unfolded at Glen Cinema on Hogmanay 1929.
“From silent film to the town’s stunned silence, the lack of any memorial beyond that in the cemetery tells of a pain and loss so great it could barely be spoken.”
Ms Stewart said: “It is possible to mark great loss in a way that is meaningful and particular to those lost and those affected.
“I hope that, together, Rachel and I can achieve such a monument.”
The project is supported by Future Paisley – a radical and wide-ranging programme of events, activity and investment which uses the town’s unique and internationally-significant cultural story to transform its future.
Leonie Bell, strategic lead on cultural regeneration for Renfrewshire Council, said: “The Glen Cinema disaster is such a tragic part of Paisley’s history. The 90th anniversary at the end of last year was a major milestone and it’s important that it continues to remain in the public consciousness in Paisley and beyond.
“We are delighted to have artists of Kerry and Rachel’s calibre onboard to engage with survivors, their families and community groups to create a truly collaborative, sensitive and lasting commemoration of a tragedy which had such devastating and lasting impacts both locally and globally.”
The Glen Cinema survivors and their families continue to commemorate the disaster every Hogmanay alongside members of the local community.
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