Business leaders in Plymouth have come together to form the Mayflower 400 Plymouth Founders Club to help realise the opportunities that this significant anniversary will bring for the city and the wider region. Members of the Founders Club include: James Brent, Akkeron Group; Chris Gates, Princess Yachts; Gareth Kagan, Womble Bond Dickinson; Matthew Reed, British Land; and John Napton, Brittany Ferries.
Adrian Vinken, Chair of the Mayflower 400 National Compact, said: “Mayflower 400 provides an exceptional opportunity for Plymouth to show the world all that it has to offer and transform the way it’s perceived nationally and internationally. But the city’s ability to take full advantage of these opportunities in 2020 will depend on how much support and focus we are collectively able to put into it.
“In coming together and demonstrating their commitment, these businesses are leading the way towards unlocking Plymouth’s great potential. We would encourage and welcome other business leaders to also demonstrate their commitment to the city by getting in touch and joining us.”
Mayflower 400 celebrates the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower Pilgrims setting sail from Plymouth to America in 1620.
John Napton, director and company secretary at Brittany Ferries, drew parallels between the historic event and his company’s own history: “In the early 1970s our founders turned to the sea to explore a new and exciting future, just as the pilgrims did on Mayflower nearly 400 years ago. Today the links between France and the UK have never been stronger and Roscoff to Plymouth is at the heart of Brittany Ferries’ operations. We look forward to celebrating another great seafaring adventure that began with a great city, an iconic ship and a dream to link distant lands and embrace new opportunities.”
As companies with major investments in Plymouth, the Founders Club members aim to grow pride in the city and provide positive community legacies whilst ensuring that businesses benefit from the anniversary.
Managing director of Plymouth-based Princess Yachts, Chris Gates, emphasised the city’s importance to his business: “At Princess Yachts we celebrate our origins. With ‘crafted in Plymouth, England’ incorporated into our branding we value the importance that our customers around the world place on Plymouth.
“It is an iconic location, and the Mayflower is symbolic and inseparable from our identity in the South West. We are a marvellous beacon of manufacturing, entirely designing and building our yachts with 2600 employees within a 10-mile radius of Plymouth, to universal acclaim. This project allows us to take a great piece of history and reinvent the significance of our Plymouth being the original.”
The businesses involved will also be encouraging their staff to participate in the 2020 programme with many signing up to be ‘Mayflower Makers’: volunteers who will be trained as Mayflower Ambassadors for the city. Their role will be to share the Mayflower story, promote the 2020 events calendar and help educate the public.
Gareth Kagan, Plymouth-based partner at transatlantic law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, said: "We're delighted to be a part of the Mayflower 400 initiative. The iconic ship is an integral part of our city's heritage and a recognition of a voyage that shaped the history of the world. The Mayflower's 400th anniversary is a reminder of Plymouth's strong ties with North America, something that we are passionate about as Womble Bond Dickinson as the only transatlantic law firm in the South West.
“This month we are putting 20 of our people through a pilot scheme with Improving Lives Plymouth to become ‘Mayflower Makers’ and ambassadors for the anniversary. We look forward to working with other partners and local communities to showcase the beauty and history of our city."
Work is going on throughout Plymouth to ensure the city looks its best during 2020. Matthew Reed, head of retail asset management at British Land, the company responsible for the new Drake Circus Leisure development at Bretonside, said: “Both Plymouth and the Mayflower have an incredible legacy but for us. Mayflower 400 is about celebrating the future of Plymouth. We have invested in this crucial part of the South West through our Drake Circus scheme which has provided the local and wider communities with a place to work and enjoy.
“By 2020 we’ll have further enhanced the retail and leisure offer in Plymouth through our £53 million investment in Drakes Circus Leisure providing even more reasons to live in and visit Plymouth, as we continue to support the city.”
Future proofing is a priority of the Plymouth Founders Club businesses. James Brent, chairman and chief executive of Akkeron Group and owner of Plymouth Argyle Football Club, said: “Mayflower 400 is absolutely about recognising an important event in our history but it is also about building a legacy for our children. For us, this will involve significant investment in the built environment, particularly in and around Home Park, but just as importantly we will use sport to engage with our community and support them to live fulfilling and healthy lives.”
The Plymouth Argyle Community Trust have recently been appointed as sports coordinator for Plymouth’s Mayflower 400 commemorations, which is just one element of the ongoing work happening to ensure Plymouth reaches its full potential during 2020.
For more information about Mayflower 400, visit mayflower400uk.org.
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