Sewing Bee star Patrick Grant grows a new textile "industry" in Lancashire as part of Textile Biennial 2021

Sewing star Patrick Grant is helping to fly the flag for Lancashire textiles in a novel way this year.

Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 5:08 pm

As part of the Lancashire based British Textile Biennial 2021, which runs throughout October, work is ongoing on an unusual "HomeGrown/Homespun" exhibit.

The exhibit and asociated exhibition has its origins in a field of flax and woad grown earlier this year on disused land in Blackburn. This is providing the yarn to create the first Homegrown/Homespun garment for Patrick's Blackburn based Community Clothing social enterprise. He founded Community Clothing to sell sustainable and ethical men and women's clothing and to create jobs.

The project is being run in collaboration with the North West England Fibreshed and festival organisers Super Slow Way and the work could be seen in progress last week at Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery. The fabric will be being further prepared at the museum and gallery on Saturday afternoon, although it's now known more flax will have to be grown to create a complete garment.

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Patrick Grant

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 will reclaim disused urban spaces and on them they will grow flax and woad, we’ll make linen and indigo, and from that we’ll make clothes, in a completely sustainable natural system. And in doing this we’ll create new habitats for wildlife, soil systems will be regenerated, and we hope 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: "far reaching 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 flax growing and manufacturing process will continue at the Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery until the end of the year.

Patrick is a long standing advocate for both the local textile industry and the British Textile Biennial and is a patron of the Biennial which he has supported from its beginning.

Lubaina Himid pictured at her exhibition at the Great Barn at Gawthorpe Hall Photo: Huckleberry Films

The star judge on TV's The Great British Sewing Bee stepped in and with his sister Victoria rescued the historic Blackburn based Cookson & Clegg company in 2016.

Meanwhile the Biennial, now in its third year, has revealed plans to extend further across Lancashire. It has its roots in East Lancashire but this year there was due to be an exhibition in Preston's Harris Museum and Art gallery, but this had to be transferred to Blackburn due to the Harris's closure for its Reimagining the Harris redevelopment.

Laurie Peake, Director of Festival organisers Super Slow Way said: "We will continue to work with Preston certainly for 2023 and the intention is to fan the Biennial out across the county, particularly for 2025. We've expanded to Rossendale this year - Lancashire is the home of the textile industry we thought if anybody is going to do a Textile Biennial it absolutely should be here."

Buildings used in the Biennial have over the years ranged from disused and vacant mills to mill museums and the Blackburn Cotton Exchange. Laurie said: "It's about celebrating the history, but also its contemporary legacy, Most people who live here actually came here because of the textile industry however many generations back."

She noted that in the 1880s four towns in Lancashire provided 85 per cent of the world's cotton goods.

In comparison nowadays just a few textile manufacturers remain in East Lancashire manufacturing cloths ranging from specialist furnishing textiles to high end designer fabrics.

An installation by UCLan Professor and Turner prize winning artist Lubaina Himid is on display at Gawthorpe Hall's Great Barn as part of this year's Biennial. For more information about the exhibit see our recent report here .

Meanwhile textile historian Amber Butchart has curated a new exhibition Cloth Cultures at the Haworth Art Gallery, Accrington which draws on objects from the Gawthorpe Hall Textile Collection.

For more details about the Biennial see here .

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