Denim flying hats and mechanical soundscapes – the story of the long-standing Blackburn-based clothing manufacturer Cookson & Clegg is revealed
Supported by an incredible workforce, fazed by nothing I’ve asked of them, with enthusiastic help we achieved all this together!
McConnell has spent the last few months unearthing the stories of the company – from its leatherworking origins to its current guise under Patrick Grant – and has discovered how deeply the company is embedded in the physical landscape of Blackburn. Her research-focussed approach to the residency has resulted in a multimedia, audio-visual walking tour of Blackburn town centre, along with an installation of audio work hidden in a set of repurposed jacket sleeves.
To prepare for the trip back in time, participants will don specially made, flying cap replicas inspired by the headwear made in the factory during the 1930s for the new age of pilots. The artist worked with the factory to revive the archive pattern, with the flying hats cut and reimagined in denim. Beginning at the former family residence and taking in the past sites of Cookson & Clegg’s ‘manufactories,’ the tour is interwoven with oral histories and mechanical soundscapes.
As a socially engaged artist, people are imperative to McConnell’s work. Her creative practice has 4 key components – people, place, objects and archives – which are brought to life by the social connections between them.
The artist uses a research- based approach, delving into history books and maps found in archives, libraries and museums to create work that engages with people.
The Cookson & Clegg story starts in 1860, when the Blackburn-based manufacturer made leather workwear for coal delivery men. In 1914 the factory began making uniforms for the British Army and has continued a long-standing relationship with the Ministry of Defence. Specialist sewing skills and technological advances have helped to forge partnerships with contemporary clothing brands, sold in some of the most prestigious retail stores in the world. cooksonandclegg.co.uk
Seeing Cookson’s past through new eyes has been an enriching experience. Jeni has given our manufacturing history a contemporary life.
PATRICK GRANT, COOKSON & CLEGG