Plymouth’s 2020 Mayflower 400 programme revealed

Nov 22, 2018

Plymouth’s extraordinary and exciting Mayflower 400 programme for 2020 has been revealed today, an ambitious programme of unforgettable events.

Key highlights include:

  • A major cultural programme funded by, amongst others, £700,000 from Arts Council England that includes a music theatre collaboration between UK and US communities with local artists Seth Lakeman and Nick Stimson
  • Spectacular new events, including the Mayflower Week and Ocean Festival
  • Community engagement through education, arts and culture, sport and volunteering 

For the full details of the exciting programme click here

2020 is the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage, one of the most influential journeys in global history and a defining moment in the shared history of Britain, the US and the Netherlands. Thirteen towns and cities from all three countries will work together, creating a huge programme of events and activities in the run-up to and throughout 2020, themed around the four key Mayflower values of freedom, imagination, humanity and future. 

Plymouth was the Mayflower’s final departure point in the UK and the city is the lead partner in the commemorations.

Adrian Vinken, Chair of Mayflower 400, said: “Plymouth’s programme for 2020 is looking truly spectacular and we’re excited to be revealing more details today. Thanks to support from Arts Council England, Plymouth City Council and the government, it will go a long way to cement Plymouth’s reputation internationally as a major city of culture.”

Arts Council England announced £700,000 for four key projects, together known as ‘Art of the Possible’. The Wampanoag, the native people of Massachusetts who played a vital role in the Mayflower story, will partner in many of the projects.

Projects include the first commission from the UK to acknowledge the cultural connection to the Wampanoag people. Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America will see the creation of a new Wampum belt. Traditionally made from shells, Wampum belts are the creative expression of the Wampanoag's stories, with each shell filled with memory and meaning. The belt will tour the UK during 2020.

For the full details of the exciting programme click here

A new large-scale music theatre production inspired by the Mayflower story will be a collaboration between the Wampanoag and Plymouth communities, working with local musician Seth Lakeman and writer Nick Stimson and directed by Alan Lane from the Slung Low company.

The Art of the Possible will also see an amazing outdoor arts spectacle around the city centre and Plymouth Hoe and a revitalising of the Mayflower Steps monument.

Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, said: “We’re proud to be working closely with the Mayflower 400 team and to be strengthening cultural connections with our American partners from the Wampanoag community and British consulate in Massachusetts - these connections will help to boost the flow of talent that is so crucial to the arts and creative industries, one of the fasted growing economic sectors in England.”

Other cultural projects have received funding through the £400,000 Mayflower 400 Cultural Fund administered by Plymouth Culture, including a comedy produced by Le Navet Bête, in partnership with the Barbican Theatre, that explores the ‘special relationship’ between the UK and the USA, and ‘Roots Up!’, a mass dance led by Street Factory CIC.


"We have huge events planned for the year and the ‘Mayflower Week’, running from 14 to 20 September 2020 is going to be unmissable"

Deputy Leader of Plymouth City Council, Pete Smith, said: “Mayflower 400 offers amazing opportunities for Plymouth, which played an important role in the original journey nearly 400 years ago. During the next two years, the commemorations will have a positive impact on the city, attracting more visitors and giving every local person the chance to get involved.

“We have huge events planned for the year and the ‘Mayflower Week’, running from 14 to 20 September 2020 is going to be unmissable.”  

The ‘Mayflower Week’ will include a field gun festival, daily flypasts and a formal Mayflower Ceremony on Plymouth Hoe on the anniversary of the ship’s departure (16 September).

In May 2020, the Mayflower Ocean Festival will offer a jam-packed weekend on the water in Britain’s Ocean City, incorporating OSTAR, TWOSTAR and TRANSAT sailing races, Pirates Weekend and a range of community events.

Light-based festival, Illuminate, will formally open and close the commemorations in Plymouth in November 2019 and 2020 and will increase in size to include other areas of the city beyond Royal William Yard, creating a word-class spectacle of light. The festival links all 13 Mayflower 400 locations in three countries.


The Mayflower 400 Community Sparks Fund offers individuals and community groups the opportunity to apply for funding to carry out their own Mayflower events, workshops and activities. The first round has awarded over £36,000 to 13 different projects, including a competition for a new town crier, a transatlantic art project, an international celebration of Morris dancing through the Mayflower Morris Muster and tea dances with a difference on Plymouth Hoe.

A Mayflower citizenship project will involve every school, giving young people the opportunity to create and vote on a new ‘Compact’ for the city, mirroring the compact agreed by the Mayflower’s passengers. Teachers also have access to free Mayflower themed resources to use and CaterED will also bring a taste of North America to plates across the city with Thanksgiving meals in schools. 

Plymouth Argyle Community Trust are leading the sports programme, aiming to improve the city’s health and wellbeing by getting more people involved in sport. The Mayflower Community Sport Fund will offer grants of up to £1,000 to individuals, clubs and organisations to run their own Mayflower events.



The Box, the city’s major new cultural and heritage attraction, will open in 2020 with the Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy exhibition. The exhibition is being created with the help of over 100 museums, libraries and archives across the UK, US and the Netherlands and the Wampanoag Advisory Committee. A programme of contemporary responses will also run alongside it.

Work is also ongoing to renovate the historic Elizabethan House on the Barbican. Having survived for more than 400 years, the house will be restored and reinterpreted 

Another project, coined The Road to Mayflower, aims to transform the appearance of Embankment Road to improve the welcome for visitors travelling into the city.  

Attracting more visitors to Plymouth is a key goal for 2020 and Destination Plymouth is working with the eleven UK towns and cities linked to the Mayflower story to create a Mayflower Trail, encouraging visitors from the US to explore the UK and boosting tourism outside of London.

If you want to get involved with Mayflower 400, you can sign up to volunteer as a ‘Mayflower Maker’. Businesses are also invited to get involved and volunteer as groups of employees. Volunteers can help by spreading the Mayflower story and supporting events during 2020.

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