Jeni McConnell + Cookson & Clegg

Cordwainers and Curriers, 2017

Jeni spent months unearthing the stories of this historic Blackburn company, Cookson & Clegg, from its leatherworking origins to its current guise under owner Patrick Grant. An exciting story emerged that revealed how deeply the company is embedded in the physical landscape of Blackburn. Her research-focussed approach to the residency 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.

Beginning at the former family residence and taking in the past sites of Cookson & Clegg’s ‘manufactories’, the tour was interwoven with oral histories and mechanical soundscapes as Festival audiences experienced the story of the long-standing Blackburn-based clothing manufacturer on the streets of Blackburn.

To prepare for the trip back in time, participants wore specially made flying caps, inspired by the headwear made in the factory during the 1930s for the new age of pilots. Jeni worked with the factory to revive the archive pattern, with the flying hats cut and reimagined in denim.

“Supported by an incredible workforce, fazed by nothing I’ve asked of them, with enthusiastic help we achieved all this together!”

Jeni McConnell


As a socially engaged artist, people are imperative to McConnell’s work. Her creative practice has four key components – people, place, objects and archives – which are brought to life by the social connections between them. McConnell uses a research-based approach, delving into history books and maps found in archives, libraries and museums to create work that engages with people.


Now owned by presenter of the BBC’s ‘Great British Sewing Bee’ and internationally renowned menswear designer, Patrick Grant, 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. In addition to Cookson and Clegg, Patrick also owns Community Clothing where his innovative approach to design and manufacturing has created over 130,000 hours of work, the equivalent of over 76 years of full time employment, with each garment baring the label ‘Made in Blackburn,’ as it leaves the factory floor.

“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


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