Sewing Bee star Patrick Grant is developing a new textile ‘industry’ in Lancashire as part of the 2021 Textile Biennale
As part of the Lancashire-based British Textile Biennial 2021, which runs throughout October, work is underway on an unusual ‘HomeGrown / Homespun’ exhibition.
The exhibit and associated exhibit have its origins in a field of flax and pastel cultivated earlier this year on disused land in Blackburn. This provided the thread to create the first Homegrown / Homespun garment for Patrick Blackburn’s social enterprise Community Clothing. He founded Community Clothing to sell sustainable and ethical men’s and women’s clothing and to create jobs.
The project is being carried out in collaboration with the North West England Fibreshed and the organizers of the Super Slow Way festival and the work could be seen in progress last week at the Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery. The fabric will still be prepared at the museum and gallery on Saturday afternoon, although it is now known that more linen will need to be grown to create a complete garment.
Patrick, who is currently filming the latest series of The Great British Sewing Bee, said: “It’s such a simple idea: the people of Blackburn are going to reclaim disused urban spaces and on them they will grow linen and pastel, we will make linen and indigo, and from there, we will make clothes, in a fully sustainable natural system. And in doing so, we will create new habitats for wildlife, soil systems will be regenerated, and we hope that hundreds, if not thousands, of people will engage with nature in a meaningful and positive way. It’s incredibly exciting. “
He predicted that Homegrown / Homespun will have: “Considerable benefits for the environment and nature, for the health and cohesion of the local community, and for the stimulation of a local green economy.
An exhibition on the culture and manufacturing process of linen will continue at the Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery until the end of the year.
Patrick is a long-time supporter of the local textile industry and the British Textile Biennial and has been a patron of the Biennale which he has supported since its inception.
The star judge of the Great British Sewing Bee TV show stepped in and, along with his sister Victoria, saved the historic Blackburn-based Cookson & Clegg in 2016.
Meanwhile, the Biennale, now in its third year, has revealed plans to expand further across Lancashire. It has its roots in East Lancashire, but this year there was to be an exhibition at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston, but this had to be moved to Blackburn due to Harris being closed for his Reimagining the Harris redevelopment .
Laurie Peake, director of Super Slow Way festival organizers, said: “We will continue to work with Preston certainly for 2023 and the intention is to roll out the Biennale across the county, especially for 2025. We have expanded to Rossendale this year – Lancashire is home to the textile industry, we thought if anyone were to organize a Textile Biennale, they absolutely should be here. “
Over the years, the buildings used for the Biennale have ranged from disused and vacant mills to mill museums and the Blackburn Cotton Exchange. Laurie said: “It’s about celebrating history, but also its contemporary heritage. Most of the people who live here actually came here because of the textile industry, no matter how many generations ago. . “
She noted that in the 1880s four towns in Lancashire supplied 85 percent of the world’s cotton products.
In comparison, nowadays only a few textile manufacturers remain in East Lancashire and manufacture fabrics ranging from specialty upholstery textiles to high-end designer fabrics.
An installation by UCLan professor and Turner Prize-winning artist Lubaina Himid is on display at the Great Barn at Gawthorpe Hall as part of this year’s Biennale. For more information on the exhibition, see our recent report here.
Meanwhile, textile historian Amber Butchart has curated a new Cloth Cultures exhibition at the Haworth Art Gallery, Accrington, which draws on objects from the Gawthorpe Hall Textile Collection.
For more details on the Biennale, see here.
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