Destinations light up for start of Mayflower 400 year

Dec 02, 2019

Thousands of people enjoyed dazzling displays, projections and performances as Illuminate events across the UK marked the official start of the Mayflower 400 commemorative year.

These spectacular light-based festivals were held throughout November 2019 to connect all of the Mayflower 400 destinations across the UK and internationally, heralding the start of a year of events in 2020.

Stunning art installations and projections from local, regional and international artists helped mark the first Thanksgiving that took place between the Pilgrims and the Native American people nearly four centuries ago, with visitors enjoying vibrant, fun and inspiring experiences.

Watch our video below


Charles Hackett, Chief Executive of Mayflower 400, said: “Illuminate is one of the key events planned for the commemorations and, as well as being an amazing spectacle, it connects the partner destinations across UK in 2020.

"The festival builds on the core values of Mayflower 400, which include Freedom, Humanity, Imagination and Future."

Illuminate festivals have been taking place every November for several years, and the UK member destinations within the Mayflower 400 programme each held their own special events for 2019.


Illuminate Plymouth at Royal William Yard

In Plymouth, an unmissable four-day festival was held across four waterfront locations: Royal William Yard (RWY), Sutton Harbour, the Barbican and Mount Edgcumbe.

Thousands of people from across the city and beyond experienced impressive installations and projections from international and local artists, as well as some fantastic pieces and performances - including the Tree of Memory from Xavi Bove.

Illuminate Plymouth at Mount Edgcumbe

The mesmerising Baitball water screen projections wowed the crowds at the Yard on opening night, before moving to Sutton Harbour for the next three days, while Fishco Disco danced over from the National Marine Aquarium to join in the fun.

Diva by Thomas Voillaume lit up The Secret Garden at RWY, while the wonderful Elizabethan Gardens at Mount Edgcumbe featured a new immersive event, allowing visitors to eavesdrop on rarely-told women's stories from across Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall including tales about American-born Lady Nancy Astor, who went on to become the UK’s first female Member of Parliament.


More than 300 people joined the mesmerising Illuminate Parade through Gainsborough, which marked the start of the Lincolnshire town’s Mayflower 400 commemoration year.

Illuminate Gainsborough was the first parade of its kind to take place across the UK and was inspired by the words of leading Separatist William Bradford, who famously said: “As one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many.”

Starting at the United Reformed Church, community groups, young people and families paraded through the town with an impressive array of colourfully-decorated, handmade lanterns, before watching a spectacular light projection show onto the walls of Gainsborough Old Hall.


Illuminate Rotherhithe kick-started the London borough's involvement in the Mayflower 400 commemoration year.

Honouring its close links to the Pilgrims' story, the event expanded into Bermondsey for 2019 with a new procession route from the Blue Market and joining the Rotherhithe Procession for a celebration at st.

The grand festival finale was the Illuminate Rotherhithe Community Show at the Finnish Church on Albion Street, where people enjoyed music, poetry, a cabaret, a choir and other fantastic performances.


An estimated 6,000 people attended Historic Harwich across the two days, to enjoy the stunning projections along buildings on The Quay and onto Christopher Jones’ house. The ship’s master and co-owner, Jones’s house still stands in Kings Head Street and will open in February 2020 as a tourist attraction.

Illuminate’s opening night saw a lantern parade led by Spark! drummers and children from around the Essex town, as well as a performance by 90-strong choir Harwich Sings Tendring Voices which was projected live onto The Pier Hotel.

On the Saturday there was a fireworks flight display by Fireflies, a ‘Tunnel of Light’ and projections right along the old town seafront - together with stilt-walkers, jugglers, face-painting, puppets and more.


St Saviour’s Church was packed for Candlelit Dartmouth, which marked the start of the Devon town’s Mayflower 400 commemorations.

Father Will welcomed everyone who had braved the strong winds to take part in the traditional lantern parade which ended in the church, which was lit by 400 candles.

Visitors were also able to hear, for the first time, the Mayflower Peal of Bells written by John Langdon, one of the town’s ringers, as well as the Mayflower Anthem which has been written by local composer Ed Welch and author Brian Patten.


Now in its third year, Illuminate Immingham officially marked the start of the Lincolnshire town’s year-long Mayflower 400 programme, with a magnificent lantern parade and, brand new for this year, some exciting digital projections. 

The parade began at the Civic Hub and incorporated a dazzling array of lanterns made by the community with artists, before culminating in a service of Thanksgiving at St Andrew’s Church. 

In addition, artist Jason Willsher-Mills worked with the community to bring life to historic people of the time through contemporary art that was projected along the route and onto the church.


A dazzling street parade and vibrant performances were held in Worksop to commemorate 400 years since the Mayflower's voyage, the Pilgrims' story and its connection to the Nottinghamshire town.

Illuminate 2019 featured a parade with willow lanterns made by artists, community groups and young people from in and around Worksop.

There was also the ‘400’ photograph and digital projections onto the dramatic Worksop Priory church, which is known as the origin of the Tickhill Psalter as well as being the birthplace of Mary Bernard who, with husband Roger Williams, founded Rhode Island State. 

Astley / Chorley

Chorley’s historic house, Astley Hall, was transformed into an enchanted winter wonderland for Illuminate 2019, with brightly-coloured lights, music and unique artistic performances.

This year’s event was, of course, linked to the national Mayflower 400 anniversary, with Chorley’s own documentary on the link to Myles Standish being screened at the event.

Astley Hall, Chorley’s historic gem, was lit up in magnificent LED spotlights and hundreds of candles to coincide with the start of Chorley’s Christmas celebrations.


Illuminate Retford featured a dazzling street parade and vibrant performances to commemorate 400 years since the Mayflower's voyage, the Pilgrims' story and its connection to the Nottinghamshire town.

There was a parade through the town, with willow lanterns made by artists, community groups and young people from in and around Retford.

People could also see the ‘400’ photograph, as well as impressive digital projections onto Retford’s central parish Church, St Swithun’s, known locally as the “Cathedral of Retford”.


Hundreds of people lined the streets of Boston as the Lincolnshire town kicked off its Mayflower 400 programme with a spectacular Illuminate Parade by Transported.

This year’s event was part of the Pilgrim Roots ‘Pilgrim Festival’, a two-week festival in the home towns and villages of many of the Mayflower Pilgrims including GainsboroughBawtryBoston, Retford, Worksop and Immingham.

Illuminate coincided with the opening of Boston’s Christmas Market, as well as the switching-on of the town’s Christmas lights.


Illuminate Austerfield & Bawtry had a 'Journeys by Sea' theme to mark the start of Mayflower 400 in these two historic villages on the Yorkshire/Nottinghamshire border.

Sculptor Dan Jones and musicians Janet Wood and Moony Wainwright worked with local schools and Bawtry Library to produce a unique parade mirroring the voyage of the Mayflower Pilgrims, celebrating Austerfield's links to former Plymouth colony Governor William Bradford.

There was a spectacular aerial dance titled ‘Odyssey’, performed by international touring company Periplum, and a mass choir performance featuring schoolchildren and Quirky Choir, before the parade route led people from Austerfield Study Centre to Bawtry Hall.


Hundreds of Worcestershire children met for a choral concert at Worcester Cathedral, to celebrate the launch of a year-long series of events for the Mayflower 400 year.

King’s Worcester has a special interest in the celebrations due to the fact that one of the leaders of the Pilgrims, Edward Winslow, was a scholar at the school. He also lived near Kempsey.

More than 300 children were involved in the concert, from schools including St George’s CoE Primary, St Clement’s Primary, Cutnall Green Primary, St Barnabas Primary, The Elms, Colwall, King’s St Alban’s and King’s.

Sign up for the latest Mayflower 400 news

You'll be the first to hear the latest Mayflower news, events, and more.

Mayflower 400 Proudly Supported by our National Sponsors and Funding Partners