Mayflower 400 highlight events

Breathtaking lights shows, unforgettable festivals, inspiring exhibitions and world-class events will be among the highlights of a memorable events programme in 2020 and 2021 for the Mayflower 400 anniversary year.

In November 2019, a bold year-long series of events began - 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 events taking place and a detailed guide to the programme of commemorations in Plymouth, UK here.

Signature events


Illuminate is a spectacular festival of light taking place around the Mayflower destinations.

It launched the the Mayflower 400 commemoration year in November 2019 at a number of locations across the globe.

A dazzling series of events were held in the UK, Holland and the US, marking the first Thanksgiving that took place between those who boarded the Mayflower and the native American people in 1621.

The light festival built 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.

More Illuminate festival dates will be announced in the coming months.

Mayflower Ceremony

Mayflower 400 Four Nations Ceremony

The Mayflower 400 Four Nations Ceremony is the UK’s flagship Mayflower 400 event, and marks the closure of the international Mayflower commemorations.

Having been postponed from the original anniversary date of 16 September, due to the pandemic, this major event will now take place on Sunday 11 July on the biggest stage Plymouth Hoe has ever seen.

The ceremony is the UK’s flagship Mayflower 400 event and a grand finale to the commemorations. The 70-metre stage will host an epic production which tells the story of the Mayflower Pilgrims' journey in search of religious freedom and explores the impact of this on the world.

A massive array of singers representing choirs and schools from throughout the region will be accompanied by the full concert orchestra of HM Royal Marines Band Plymouth.

Together they will perform brand new music, accompanied by actors on stage and bespoke film footage all narrated to tell this unique story. The script and lyrics have been written by Nick Stimson, associate director at the Theatre Royal Plymouth, with music by Chris Williams.

For the first time ever, this commemoration event will include leading representatives of the Native American Wampanoag tribes, who have historically been excluded from the narrative despite having been greatly affected by the Mayflower's arrival and subsequent European settlement.

All four nations involved in the story – the UK, USA, Netherlands and the Wampanoag tribes – will be represented by high-ranking dignitaries who will speak during the ceremony and reflect on what the historical voyage means for the world today.

Wampum exhibition

Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America

The creation of a new Wampum Belt by the Native American Wampanoag Nation is one of the cornerstones of the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower's sailing.

The journey to its creation and exhibition has involved artists and scholars from the Wampanoag working with counterparts in the UK, with The Box in Plymouth central to the process.

It will form part of an exhibition on Wampanoag life and culture in Southampton, London and Plymouth - at The Box, called Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America.

You can view details of the exhibitions, read about Wampanoag culture and watch a video of the belt's creation here.

Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy

Featuring more than 300 objects drawn from museum, library and archive collections across the UK, USA and The Netherlands, Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy is an epic journal of survival, imagination and 400 years of America.

The exhibition at The Box Plymouth has been created in partnership with the Wampanoag Advisory Committee to Plymouth 400 in Massachusetts and uses objects, images and ideas to explore early English attempts to colonise America, and acknowledge conflict with Native America and the impact of colonisation on the indigenous population.

Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy also discusses the context of the sailing of the Mayflower in 1620, details the lives of the passengers, and considers the cultural, demographic and personal legacies of the story.

The Box is closed from Thursday, 5 November until Wednesday, 2 December as a result of the national lockdown. Tickets for the remainder of December can be booked here.


On 10 May 1608, a group of separatists began their escape from the town of Gainsborough’s riverside up the River Trent to Immingham and then on to Amsterdam.

They lived in Holland for 12 years before some of them then made their journey to America.

To mark this historic date, West Lindsey District Council have launched PilgrimAGE – a digital campaign that will allow you to explore the history of the Pilgrims and their roots. 

Street Factory Plymouth

The Street Factory hip hop group


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

  • This Land, an ambitious production created and performed by 120 citizens of Plymouth and 30 members of the Native American Wampanoag Tribe at the Theatre Royal Plymouth (in collaboration with Seth Lakeman)
  • Roots Up, a pioneering mass street dance event involving people across Plymouth that will be a bold and contemporary retelling and reinterpretation of the Mayflower story - led by the award-winning Street Factory hip-hop group
  • 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
  • Coming in 2021, The Hatchling will see an extraordinary, larger-than-life visitor roam through Plymouth city centre as part of a spectacular live performance that combines ancient myth with innovative puppetry.
Mayflower Steps Plymouth

New public art will be incorporated into the Mayflower Steps

Public Art

2020 and 2021 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.


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:

  • The refurbishment of Christopher Jones’ house in Harwich, which will open to the public for the 2020 commemoration. Harwich is also investing in a new Heritage Centre which will incorporate Mayflower content and provide an ongoing resource to celebrate the town’s storied history
  • Upgrades to Bassetlaw’s Heritage Centre to provide space for a dedicated Mayflower exhibition, which will also act as a hub for the regions enhanced Pilgrim Trail

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.


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


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’s Mayflower 400 programme, led by Southampton City Council, provides a moment to reflect upon the city’s rich history and creates a platform to help us explore and shape a present and future informed by lessons of the past. 

Mayflower 400 is an opportunity to celebrate Southampton, a city and a community, built on journeys and migration. An opportunity to tell our city’s story in all its richness. We will celebrate all the people of the world who have made Southampton their home and those have found sanctuary here. We will work to ensure Southampton continues to be a welcoming city. 

Partners across Southampton will deliver an innovative and inclusive programme that uses the anniversary as a means to creatively explore the City’s wider and longer history as a marine city and gateway to the world. It will invite us to look at who we were, who we are, how our city has grown and to re-think our cultural and maritime future.

Activities will include:

  • A special anniversary weekend of family activities all over Southampton, from 14th to 16th August, including the reveal of 
the newly-restored Mayflower Monument; Parade of Sail; Mayflower-themed musical and dance productions at the Mayflower Theatre; historical events at God’s House Tower; and activities at SeaCity Museum as part of Wampum Stories from the Shells of Native America
  • Inspired by one of the most influential poems in the English language, The Rime of The Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), Mariner: A Painted Ship Upon a Painted Ocean looks at what connects us across history and the present, from the desire to travel – to journey out and back again – to the role of intuition and imagination, the making of mistakes and the process of recovery and redemption through knowledge and understanding. Mariner showcases a series of new commissions and artworks at the John Hansard Gallery that consider the contemporary resonance of the poem. Also, at the John Hansard Gallery, new works by Larry Achiampong and a City of Sanctuary Community Takeover
  • A Light Art Festival at West Quay in February will start off the anniversary’s arts programme, followed by a series of dance, street art, visual arts, music and carnival art commissions running through to November. Including a new forest planted within the city centre and an Urban Arts Festival. Culminating at the end of the year with a new exhibition in the City Art Gallery, Shadows and Light
  • Commemorating Mayflower exhibition at SeaCity Museum focuses on both the nature of commemoration and how previous Mayflower anniversaries have been marked. This is supported by an exhibition at Tudor House & Garden telling the Mayflower story
  • A Giving Thanks festival running through the summer and autumn, encouraging communities to share their food and stories together

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 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 multi-million 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 Ocean City Festival, which will run from 4th to 10th May. This will celebrate Plymouth's status as Britain’s Ocean City, combining the OSTAR and TWOSTAR races with the city’s existing Pirates Weekend and a host of new activities that will get people together on the water

  • The Mayflower Makers volunteer programme, co-ordinated by Our Plymouth in partnership with Plymouth City Council. This aims to train over 400 volunteers to deliver 30,000 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
  • This Land, 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


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’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:

  • A community celebration in Droitwich Spa on 4th July to celebrate the re-opening of the Heritage Centre

  • Mayflower 400: Faith and Freedom Conference, held at Worcester Cathedral over two days, aims to explore life and religion in 17th-century England and North America. The conference will include subjects such as religion and belief in Jacobean England, the Lost World of the Pilgrim, the Winslow Family, and the Pilgrim Fathers’ encounters with the New World

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

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


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 Mayflower Heritage Trail paints a colourful picture of Dartmouth in 1620, and also includes some highlights from Dartmouth’s earlier and later history. The route is based on a map of the town drawn in 1619 and remarkably many beautiful historic buildings have survived from that time. Bayards Cove, the old harbour quay, is a focal point as the Mayflower and Speedwell moored in the river close by
  • ‘Pilgrim: New Horizons’ is a newly-commissioned sculpture created by Mark Gregory and the students of Dartmouth Academy. The figure is made of galvanised steel, with worked copper panels, and stands strong on the South Embankment, looking out to the mouth of the River Dart
  • The Grand Dart River Pageant will be held on Sunday 30th August, 2020, and will launch Dartmouth’s core week of Mayflower activity, following from the annual Port of Dartmouth Royal Regatta. Vessels of all shapes and sizes will take part, with flags and fancy dress, culminating in a sail- past of the South Embankment
  • Mayflower Week will be all about involving the community in river- and shore-based festivities. The week also sees performances combining British and American music and a screening of a specially commissioned programme of short films created by local students and led by director Peter Nicholson
  • A wide variety of maritime events will take place during the summer months of 2020, such as Dartmouth Mayflower 400 Classics race and the ASTO Small Ships Race, with visiting warships and tall ships moored in the river
  • A rich cultural programme will run through 2020 with performances of the play Safe Haven, written by Derek Parsons and Keith Myerson, a specially commissioned Peal of Bells by the Dartmouth Bell Ringers and the Dartmouth Mayflower Anthem written by Ed Welch and Brian Patten


The Chorley events programme mixes new work commissioned specifically for the commemoration with the town’s existing events, which will carry a Mayflower theme in 2020. Highlights include:

  • A series of performances exploring the life of Myles Standish running through the summer

  • The creation of dedicated Mayflower trails, with accompanying guided tours

  • A new exhibition at Astley Park’s Coach House gallery; use this as an opportunity to explore the amazing Astley Hall museum

  • Chorley Live, a weekend of music and entertainment set across 35 venues with 280 live acts attracting over 12,000 people. There are a wider range of performances to suit all the family, many with a Mayflower twist

  • The award winning Chorley Flower Show, which will include Mayflower elements in 2020

  • Musical commissions, including a new organ recital composition on the theme of the Mayflower by Clive Jenkins

  • Further events are in development; keep an eye on the Mayflower website to stay up to date

City of London

The City of London is developing a brilliant programme of activity, drawing on their continuing role as a centre of commerce, their world-class heritage sites and local expertise. Key projects include:

  • Believe! Tales of Faith, Freedom (and Football). Running from June until September, the City’s annual outdoor events programme focusses on the Mayflower anniversary, Becket 900, United Synagogue 150 and Euro 2020. The season will explore themes of identity, faith and freedom. Under that banner, a variety of events, walks and talks will take place across the City
  • Guilding the City. Running through the summer, the Guildhall’s artist-in-residence programme for 2020 will produce a series of pieces that take inspiration from the crafts and guilds represented on the Mayflower
  • The Wampum Belt Exhibition, running from the end of May to the beginning of July at the Guildhall Art Gallery. Wampum belts are the creative expression of the Wampanoag people – who met the Mayflower and ensured the survival of the new English settlers – with each shell imbued with memory and meaning. A collaboration with The Box in Plymouth, this exhibition will be the only London home in the exhibition schedule
  • Captain of the Ship, running from late April through early August at the City of London Heritage Gallery. This includes a display of the parish register from St Mary’s, Rotherhithe which has an entry for Captain Christopher Jones, master and part owner of the Mayflower

International partners


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


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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