Plymouth announces packed programme for Mayflower Ocean Festival this spring

Mar 05, 2020

Plymouth's waterfront will become a hive of activity for one jam-packed week this May, as part of the Mayflower 400 commemorations.

The Mayflower Ocean Festival, taking place from 4 to 10 May, 2020, will bring a huge programme of activity with something for everyone to dive into.

With family-friendly activities, ocean themed film screenings, live music and unique opportunities to try a variety of watersports, the festival is a celebration of Plymouth's status as Britain's Ocean City and the home of the UK's first national marine park.

Festival programme

  • Ocean Cinema film screenings at the National Marine Aquarium: 4-5 and 7 May
  • On the Water Plymouth: 8 May
  • Ocean Sailing Activity Zone: 8-10 May
  • Shanty Shindig: 8-10 May
  • Pirates Weekend Plymouth: 9-10 May
  • Horizons’ RYA Discover Sailing: 9-10 May
  • OSTAR and TWOSTAR race start: 10 May

Plymouth Sound. Picture by Jay Stone

Cllr Pete Smith, Deputy Leader of Plymouth City Council, said: "We have pulled together an incredible week of activities for everyone to enjoy.

"Not only will it commemorate the Mayflower’s significant voyage across the Atlantic 400 years ago, but it also fits with our objectives for the Plymouth Sound National Marine Park, giving local residents the chance to connect with the ocean.

"You could try out a new watersport, take the family for a brilliant free day out on our historic harbour, or simply sit back and relax on Plymouth Hoe to watch heritage boats and racing yachts out on the water."

The festival includes a number of brand new events, such as On the Water Plymouth. This watersports-focused event will take place around Sutton Harbour and West Pier on Friday, 8 May, offering free taster sessions of activities including kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.

Local activity providers will also be showcasing the sports you can get involved in – from scuba diving to sailing.

Shanty bands

All weekend, children’s sailing charity Horizons will be offering free family sailing voyages on safe and steady 20ft keelboats. Budding sailors can sign up on the day at the stand on West Pier for a 45-minute sail around Plymouth Sound.

Another new event for Plymouth is the Shanty Shindig, a festival of sea songs and maritime music. From 1-7pm each day of the Bank Holiday weekend, the Shanty Shindig will see a fantastic line-up of sea shanty groups and other musicians performing on stage, in locations around the Barbican and inside popular pubs.

Bands set to appear include Saints and Seadogs, a folk and shanty band performing a series of songs telling the Mayflower story and dark folk and Americana group, the Black Tar Roses.

The hugely-popular Pirates Weekend, run by Plymouth Waterfront Partnership, returns to the Barbican and Sutton Harbour during the festival with a huge variety of family entertainment.

Two tall ships will be moored in the harbour and the familiar faces of Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa will roam the streets, looking for trouble.

Pirates Weekend Plymouth 2019

The free entertainment for children includes puppet shows, pirate stilt-walkers, meet-and-greets with Melody the mermaid, swashbuckling school and storytelling sessions.

Fancy dress is encouraged, with everyone invited to take part in the pirate parade at the end of each day – there’s a special gift for everyone who looks the part.

In partnership with Plymouth Arts Cinema, Ocean Cinema film screenings will take place at the National Marine Aquarium on the Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evening.

More details will be announced soon, but film fans can expect a mix of classic blockbusters and family favourites, as well as conservation films and historic marine footage of Plymouth.

Tickets will cost just £8 per person or £5 for concessions.

OSTAR. Picture by Paul Gibbins

Concluding the Mayflower Ocean Festival is the start of the historic OSTAR and TWOSTAR races, the original transatlantic yacht races.

Plymouth has always been the start point for the races, and the OSTAR is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.

Visitors can take part in family fun activities at the races’ Ocean Sailing Activity Zone outside the National Marine Aquarium all weekend and cheer on the sailors as they set off on their epic journey on Sunday, 10 May. The best viewpoints will be Plymouth Hoe or from the ‘wave screen’ at Queen Anne’s Battery.

An engagement programme will also run throughout the entire week. Starting on 4 May, children from across Plymouth will have the chance to try out sailing through two programmes: Spirit of Adventure and Sailors of Tomorrow.

Tectona sailing boat (part of Spirit of Adventure programme)

Spirit of Adventure will give more than 350 disadvantaged young people, including children in care, hands-on adventures aboard traditional wooden sailing ships, while Sailors of Tomorrow will give 1,000 young people the chance to take part in dinghy-sailing sessions at the Mount Batten Watersports and Activities Centre.

Schools across Plymouth will also be visiting the OSTAR Ocean Sailing Activity Zone in the run-up to the race start to learn more about how we can take care of the environment, with activities run by the Ocean Conservation Trust.

To find out more about the Mayflower Ocean Festival and to see all the latest programme updates, head to

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