Mayflower 400 highlight events

Breathtaking lights shows, unforgettable festivals, inspiring exhibitions and world class events will be among the highlights of a memorable 12-moth events programme in the Mayflower 400 anniversary year.

Starting in November 2019, a bold year-long series of events begins - 400 moments that mark 400 years since the sailing of the Mayflower in 1620.

They range from dynamic community spectacles to large-scale festivals - you can view the entire list here or view some of the highlight events below.

You can also view a complete overview of the Mayflower 400 projects taking place and a detailed guide to the programme of commemorations in Plymouth, UK here

Signature events

Illuminate 2019

Illuminate

The remarkable Illuminate festival will launch the the Mayflower 400 commemoration year at Mayflower destinations across the globe in November 2019.

A dazzling series of events will take place at locations across the UK, Holland and the US, marking the first Thanksgiving that took place between the Mayflower Pilgrims and the native American people in 1621.

Dazzling light shows and cultural extravaganzas will wow crowds on both sides of the Atlantic, taking their inspiration from the words of Pilgrim Governor William Bradford of the original 'Plimoth Plantation':

"Just as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many."

The light festival will build on the success of Illuminate events that have been taking place every November in the build up to the Mayflower 400 anniversary year. Previous events have seen thousands flock to historic locations like Royal William Yard in Plymouth for an immersive experience, with projections and light installations, live performances and interactive opportunities.

Stay updated with our Illuminate 2019 page, while individual events listings will be created for each location in 2019.

Mayflower Ceremony

The Mayflower Ceremony

The Mayflower Ceremony will be a inspiring civic event in Plymouth commemorating the Mayflower’s journey, legacy and the four nations connected to the story. It will take place on the 16th of September 2020, the anniversary date of the ship’s departure from the UK to the US.

Communities across the four nations will play a part in this special day, and it will be attended by representatives from the UK, US, Netherlands and Wampanoag.

The Ceremony is part of a wider week of Mayflower-themed activity in Plymouth, including an international field gun competition, daily fly-bys and an Armed Forces rehabilitation triathlon.

The Mayflower Muster

A spectacular event involving military representation from the UK, US and Holland - all taking place in Plymouth Sound's natural amphitheatre and the city's iconic waterfront. The Mayflower Muster, running in Plymouth from the 18th to the 20th of September 2020, will explore the shared history of the UK, US and Dutch over hundreds of years with a range of demonstrations, displays and wider activity.

Wampum exhibition

Wampum: Stories and Shells from Native America

The ‘Stories and Shells’ exhibition is a nationally touring exhibition that will acknowledge our cultural connection to the Wampanoag people who met the Mayflower and ensured the survival of the English settlers. It will include the commissioning of a new wampum belt, made exclusively by the Wampanoag people of the Mashpee and Aquinnah nations, to mark the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower, which will tour alongside wider Mayflower content. The creative process underpinning the exhibition will bring Wampanoag artists to the British Museum to record, interpret and explore one of the world’s largest collections of historic wampum belts. It will tour venues in Plymouth from September 1 until October 31 - more dates and locations to be announced soon.

The Box Plymouth

The Box, artist's impression

Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy

The ‘Legend and Legacy’ exhibition will launch alongside The Box, Plymouth’s new multi-million pound cultural hub, in Spring 2020. It will be the lead collection of Mayflower exhibits for the international commemoration, including content from over 100 institutions from across the world. The exhibition will explore the origins of the Mayflower journey, its legacy and the way in which it has been commemorated through generations.

Further content has been developed in partnership with the Wampanoag Advisory Committee, with advice from the National Museum of the American Indian, ensuring that the exhibition will explore the real Native American story.

The PilgrimAGE Festival 2020

Running from May to September in 2020, the PilgramAGE festival will connect communities across Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire through an unprecedented range of heritage activity, including exhibitions, talks, education activity and workshops.

This will provide a unique opportunity to engage with the Mayflower’s journey in the communities from which the Separatists originated, including authentic experiences stimulated by volunteers and local organisations that reflect the ongoing passion for and relevance of the story in the region.

SS Shieldhall

The Southampton Mayflower Maritime Festival

The Mayflower Maritime Festival will deliver three days of memorable cultural, heritage and sporting activity, promoting the city’s pivotal role in the Mayflower’s journey and its wider maritime heritage. Highlights will include participation from the Jubilee Sailing Trust, a United Nations accredited disability charity that promotes integration through the challenge and adventure of tall ship sailing. The Trust’s Tenacious will be in Southampton through the festival, offering public tours and wider engagement opportunities before it sets sail to recreate elements of the Mayflower’s original journey.

Street Factory Plymouth

The Street Factory hip hop group

Performances

A diverse programme of new performance pieces that will help tell the story of the Mayflower from multiple perspectives. Key activity includes:

  • An ambitious production involving 200 people on either side of the Atlantic to be performed at the Theatre Royal Plymouth (in collaboration with Seth Lakeman)
  • A bold and contemporary mass street dance led by the award-winning Street Factory hip-hop group in Plymouth
  • New theatre pieces from De Veenfabriek & the Dutch National Theatre, the Mayflower Theatre Southampton, 
  • A diverse range of dance projects, including work by Imagination Museum by Katie Green
  • Music productions, ranging from new bell peals through to opera, jazz, sea shanty singing, folk music and more

 

Dartmouth Regatta

Dartmouth's Regatta will form part of its Mayflower Festival

Festivals

2020 will see a connected series of festivals across the country as each destination commemorates their role in the Mayflower’s journey, including:

  • Southampton’s Mayflower Maritime Festival
  • Dartmouth’s Mayflower Festival, linking with the town’s world-famous Regatta to provide a great range of events on the water
  • Harwich’s Mayflower Festival
  • Plymouth’s Mayflower Week; this will provide the culmination of the festival programme, commemorating the departure of the Mayflower from the UK with an international four-nation civic event and the associated Mayflower Muster which will incorporate representation from the UK, US and Dutch navies

 

Mayflower Steps Plymouth

New public art will be incorporated into the Mayflower Steps

Public Art

2020 will see a range of exciting new public art installed across the UK to commemorate the Mayflower’s journey, including work at the Mayflower Steps in Plymouth and integrated into Dartmouth’s Mayflower trail. This will augment existing artwork including Southampton’s Mayflower Monument and the Pilgrim Memorial at Scotia Creek, Boston.

A new sculpture of the Mayflower ship will be created at the home of the Mayflower in Harwich.

Exhibitions

Multiple new exhibition spaces and exhibitions are being commissioned to highlight and share each location’s role in the Mayflower story. This will see artefacts displayed for the first time, new collaborations forged and increase the cultural capital of communities involved through 2020 and beyond. Key projects include:

Food and Drink

Mayflower 400 will incorporate a series of festivals and experiences that will give residents and visitors the opportunity to experience the best of the UK’s food and drink, often with
a Mayflower twist. Opportunities will range from Plymouth’s Seafood Festival through to Tendring’s Beer Festival; these will sit alongside more unique events such as Droitwich Salt Festival.

Sport

A dedicated series of national sports activities are in development that will further link communities involved in the Mayflower’s story, including a Mayflower marathon series, mass participation sailing events and professional sports competitions. For example, Plymouth’s elite Leander swimming club has developed the Mayflower Cup series of meets, each themed around a different location on the Mayflower’s journey. This will culminate in the Transatlantic Cup in 2020, which will see US athletes invited to the city to compete.

 

Three Choirs Worcester

Worcester's stunning cathedral

Highlight events by location

Harwich

As the birthplace of the Mayflower, Harwich is building a diverse and authentic programme of activity for 2020 with exceptional support from the local community:

  • Major local authority investment is delivering two new bespoke Mayflower attractions that will provide essential experiences for visitors looking to understand the origins of the ship and her crew. The home of Christoper Jones, Captain and part owner of the Mayflower, will open to the public for the first time for 2020 with a range of bespoke content and interactive elements. Further information on Harwich’s links to the Mayflower will be explored at Harwich’s new Heritage Centre, which will open in 2020 with a dedicated exhibition exploring the town’s role in the Mayflower’s journey, including a range of artefacts that have never been publically displayed before

  • Harwich’s updated visitor trails will highlight the town’s Mayflower heritage, set against the beautiful backdrop of the River Stour. These will incorporate wider attractions such as the Redoubt Fort, which hosts activities through the summer including ghost hunts, beer festivals and battle re-enactments

  • The Harwich Mayflower Festival, a new event in development specifically for 2020, will see a range of Mayflower themed events and activities take place across the town, incorporating iconic sites such as the Electric Palace Cinema and Ha’Penny Pier

  • Harwich’s existing events programme will pick up a Mayflower theme through 2020, incorporating great events such Harwich and Parkerston Winter Ale Festival, Harwich Sausage Festival the Harwich International Shanty Festival, which sees performers from across the world come together for a weekend of song, drink, performance and more

  • A diverse cultural programme will deliver further exciting Mayflower experiences, including Illuminate and Harwich’s Festival of the Arts, which incorporates work from local, national and international artists across exhibitions, spoken word performances, visual art, dance and music

Southampton

Southampton’s Mayflower 400 programme, led by Southampton Cultural Development Trust in consultation with the people of Southampton, will match a series of major cultural projects with capital investment and grass-roots activity to showcase the city’s talent, creativity and heritage. Alongside the Mayflower Maritime Festival, key activities will include:

  • Significant investment in the ‘Walk the Walls’ heritage trail, which takes visitors along Southampton’s exceptionally preserved medieval town walls. This new investment
    will feature new Mayflower related content, weaving Southampton’s pivotal role in the Mayflower’s journey into the city’s wider history
  • A diverse cultural programme, including productions from the Mayflower and Nuffield Southampton Theatres commissioned specifically for Mayflower 400 as well as new festivals of light to launch and close the commemoration. This will align with the region’s existing events programme, which already includes a great range of activity such as SeaCity Museum and Winchester Hat Fair
  • The Southampton ABP Marathon, which will take on a Mayflower theme for 2020 with runners from across the partnership encouraged to participate. This will crown a broad range of sports activity developed specifically for Mayflower 400
  • The Giving Thanks Festival, running through October and November 202, which will provide communities with the opportunity to show how they give thanks through food and bring people together to celebrate the city’s diversity
  • The initiation of the programme’s grass-roots engagement activity on the week beginning the 21st of January 2019. This activity aspires to collect the stories of Southampton’s communities and tell them to the world, providing a rich back- drop to Mayflower 400 and ensuring everyone in the city has the opportunity to contribute to the commemoration

Supported by a £500,000 award from the Heritage Lottery Fund, partners from across Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire have come together to develop an exceptional programme of heritage activity commemorating the birthplace of the Separatists and the stories that inspired their journey to America. To date, over 100 activities are planned in the build-up to and through 2020, and this will increase as the programme gains momentum. Alongside the PilgrimAGE 2020 festival, highlights include:

  • The region’s existing self-drive Mayflower Trail will be renamed the Pilgrims Trail, and receive significant investment to increase its scale and content, including digital resources. Through 2020 the trail will be enhanced by a range of activities targeting visitors and residents, providing unique experiences that will engage people with the local landscape and heritage

  • A new Pilgrims Gallery at Bassetlaw Museum will open in May 2019. This will tell the story of the Pilgrims in North Nottinghamshire, addressing core themes of tolerance, freedom and migration while also acting as the focal point for the Pilgrims Trail

  • A series of high profile exhibitions will take place across
    the Roots region, including a new permanent installation in Gainsborough Old Hall and multiple shows across Doncaster’s Heritage Festival

  • Imagination Museum Mayflower 400 by Katie Green will use the medium of dance to interpret the Pilgrim’s story and engage young people, with performances based at non- traditional dance spaces such as museums and exhibitions

  • A brilliantly diverse cultural programme, with activity ranging across performance, photography, health and well-being, digital, writing, schools engagement and more. This is being developed in partnership with local communities and organisations such as Bassetlaw Christian Heritage and the Percy Laws Gallery, ensuring that content will be accessible, authentic and carry real resonance for visitors and residents

Members of the Roots community have been developing additional Mayflower content:

Boston, Lincolnshire

Boston has been delivering increasingly ambitious Illuminate events and lantern parades. This will continue in both 2019 and 2020, build on the vibrancy that has enthralled participants and audiences to date. Alongside this, an engaging calendar of events is in development for 2020, with further information to be released through 2019. Boston Guildhall showcases the cells where Brewster, Bradford and others were held while being tried, and this attraction will be enhanced for the commemoration

Immingham, Lincolnshire

Immingham’s Mayflower 400 programme will deliver a range of new events to the town, including a dedicated cultural programme, new heritage trail and enhancements to the Pilgrim exhibition in their museum

Plymouth

Plymouth is developing a world-class culture and heritage programme for Mayflower 400 in 2020. Investment and support from Plymouth City Council combines with wider private/public sector investment to deliver a transformational year for the city. Highlights include:

  • The Mayflower Ceremony, a four-nations civic ceremony commemorating the Mayflower’s journey and legacy on the day of the Mayflower’s departure, attended by representatives from the UK, US, Netherlands and Wampanoag
  • The Mayflower Muster; as one the world’s foremost Naval bases, with a history stretching back to 1691, Plymouth will celebrate this heritage in partnership with the US and Dutch Armed Forces to create a spectacular festival including live displays, interactive demonstrations and a host of other activity
  • A £5m+ investment in heritage trails and public realm spaces, which will provide a major uplift to the city’s visitor offer. This will include improvements to the Mayflower Steps and three new trails exploring the city’s Mayflower history and wider heritage including Drake, Cook and its role in World War II and subsequent reconstruction
  • The opening of The Box, the city’s new £45m+ cultural hub. Alongside the Mayflower Exhibition, this will launch with a range of supplementary Mayflower content that will critically explore the multi-faceted legacy of the journey. Alongside this, over £1.5m is being invested in the Elizabethan House, one of Plymouth’s oldest remaining buildings. This will open as a new attraction in the vicinity of the Mayflower Steps in 2020, telling the story of the historic Barbican area from the time of the Pilgrims through to the present day
  • The Mayflower Makers volunteer programme, co-ordinated by Improving Lives Plymouth. This aims to train over 400 volunteers to deliver 100,000 hours of volunteering in support of the commemoration
  • The Mayflower 400 Community Sparks Fund, which will see around £150,000 invested in local organisations to deliver their own content for the commemoration. To date around £35k has been awarded to enable the delivery of projects including an international Morris Dancing meet, new town crier, international quilting competition and more
  • Theatre Royal Plymouth’s Mayflower production, delivered in partnership with the Wampanoag Tribe and Seth Lakeman. This will involve 2,000 members of the community on both sides of the Atlantic, and tell the Mayflower story from multiple perspectives
  • A programme of cultural content created specifically for the Mayflower 400 commemorations, including a visual arts production entitled Settlement by the Conscious Sisters, Le Navet Bete’s satirical play The 400 and a series of musical performances delivered by the Plymouth Music Accord. This will augment Plymouth’s existing events calendar, with already includes some exceptional content including the British Fireworks Championship and Flavour Fest

A full overview of the Mayflower 400 programme in Plymouth can be viewed here

Southwark

Southwark has a history of developing brilliant grass-roots cultural activity. This will continue through the Mayflower 400 commemoration, with capital investment in the public realm combining with a community commissioning scheme to create a unique programme of activity for 2020 that reflects the creativity and diversity of the borough. Highlights include:

  • Rotherhithe Illuminate, a free five day festival created by residents, incorporating a range of great community activities including concerts, dances, music, film and exhibitions. This will open and close Southwark’s Mayflower 400 programme in 2019 and 2020 respectively
  • New trails along the Southbank, incorporating signage and interpretation that will foreground Southwark’s key role in the Mayflower’s journey and link to Southwark’s wider maritime heritage. The trail will point to wider famous landmarks and attractions including Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tate Modern, Southwark Cathedral and Borough Market.
  • A range of bespoke community activity commissioned specifically for Mayflower 400. From theatrical performances and cinematic screening through to talks and visual arts, this will showcase the best of Southwark while providing a range of special experiences for visitors and residents.

Worcestershire

Worcestershire’s Mayflower programme will draw on the regions exceptional heritage assets and organisations to create a memorable series of activities for Mayflower 400, while also promoting wider links with the US. Key highlights include:

  • Investment in the public realm, with new content in development that will bring to the fore Worcester’s pivotal role in the Mayflower story for generations to come and align with the national Mayflower trail

  • The integration of the regions existing events programme with the Mayflower 400 commemoration, adding a Mayflower theme to

  • A series of events at Worcester’s amazing Cathedral, including the Three Choirs Festival, which will bring a cornucopia of exceptional choral-orchestral performances to the city.

Dartmouth

Dartmouth’s Mayflower 400 programme is being developed by a team of volunteers, who are using their professional skills to create an incredibly ambitious programme of activity for the benefit of their community and to further enhance the town’s visitor offer through 2020 and beyond. Highlights include:

  • The development of a new Mayflower Trail that will lead visitors through the town, following in the footsteps of the Pilgrims. Visitors will be able to see beautiful historic buildings that were standing in 1620, and explore atmospheric Bayard’s Cove, with its Tudor fort, where the Mayflower and Speedwell were moored. Interpretation panels and digital information at points of interest along the route will explain Dartmouth’s role in the Mayflower story and provide wider historical context
  • The Grand Dart River Pageant, with will start on the 30th of August 2020. This will launch Dartmouth’s core week of Mayflower activity, following from the annual Dartmouth Royal Regatta. The event will include tall ships, community participation and shore-based festivities
  • The creation of a 10ft replica scale model of the Mayflower, built by Captain Ian Kirkwood with help from local students
  • A rich cultural programme, building on the town’s existing events calendar. This will include an art trail, linking with Dartmouth wealth of artists and galleries, open air theatre production of the Tempest, specially commissioned Peal of Bells, sculpture project and more
  • The planned finale to Dartmouth’s Mayflower week on the 5th of September 2020 will be a Grand Concert and Son et Lumiere at The Britannia Royal Naval College. This will be led by the Royal Choral Society with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra plus the Band of her Majesty’s Royal Marines

International partners

Leiden

The Pilgrims spent around ten years living, working and praying in Leiden, free from religious persecution by the English Crown. The Leiden programme commemorates the legacy of the Pilgrims in their city, and the reciprocal impact of the city on the community the Pilgrims established in America. Key projects include:

  • The ‘Intellectual Baggage’ exhibition, created in partnership between the Museum De Lakenhall, Leiden University Library and the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum. This will focus on the books the Pilgrims took on their journey, exploring the impact of literature throughout the Mayflower’s story

  • The ‘Native Nations in the 17th Century’ exhibition, by Museum Volkenkunde in co-operation with the Wampanoag, which will explore the culture of the original inhabitants of America

  • Multiple new theatre productions, including by the theatrical music company VeenFabriek and PSǀtheatre

  • The ‘Meet your Pilgrim Relative’ booth, which will run through 2020 and enable Leiden’s residents to explore their heritage and identify potential links to the Pilgrims

  • The Pilgrim Walking Tour, taking visitors through the city’s Mayflower heritage. Launched in October 2018, this will expand to include digital elements such as AR and VR for 2020

US

Content in the US is being developed by a range of partners, including the Plymouth 400 programme and organisations across Massachusetts. The Wampanoag are using 2020 as an opportunity to tell their story, ensuring that their voice is firmly embedded in the commemoration.

Key projects include:

  • Plymouth 400’s Embarkation Day, which will link with Plymouth UK’s Mayflower Ceremony on the 16th of September to create an international commemoration of the Mayflower’s enduring legacy
  • The Plymouth 400 cultural programme, which includes a broad range of content including education activity, exhibitions, art, talks and more, delivered in partnership with a range of local stakeholders including Plimouth Plantation and the General Society of Mayflower Descendants
  • Wampanoag Days, a two day Powwow celebrating the longevity and continuity of the Indigenous Nations of America
  • The ‘Our Story: 400 Years of Wampanoag History’ exhibition, which will travel through the region shinning a light on pieces of history that had a significant impact on the Wampanoag tribe, their relationship with the Mayflower Pilgrims and the founding of Plymouth Colony
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