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.
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.
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.
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.
You can view details of the exhibitions, read about Wampanoag culture and watch a video of the belt's creation here.
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.
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:
New public art will be incorporated into the Mayflower Steps
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:
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.
Worcester's stunning cathedral
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:
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 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’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 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
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:
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 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
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:
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:
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