A beautiful mosaic of the Mayflower has taken a commemorative journey to Southampton, before going back to Plymouth.
The mosaic was co-designed by the residents of Burtons, in Plymstock and Abbeyfield House, in Hartley, which are supported housing schemes managed by The Abbeyfield Society, a charity providing housing and care for older people in the UK and internationally.
In 2020, a venture between Abbeyfield and Mayflower 400 Community Sparks enabled Abbeyfield's residents to embark on a creative mosaic project.
Together, through a series of workshops and virtual consultations, and with support from staff, residents planned their vision of an artwork that would promote the legacy of the Mayflower voyage.
One of the motifs used was suggested by Gordon Hannaford, a resident at Abbeyfield House. "This design was painted by my father when I was a teenager," he said, "so it has a very personal meaning to me."
Vicki Gillow, Abbeyfield Community Engagement Manager and art enthusiast who conceived the project, also used china and sea glass in the mosaic, to provide a connection to the story of the Mayflower’s voyage.
The mosaic was initially designed to sit in a publicly accessible garden at Mayflower Court, Abbeyfield’s new 80-bed independent living scheme in Millbay.
Before the mosaic can take up its permanent home, it has begun its journey in Southampton, where it is temporarily displayed at Abbeyfield's Southampton care home, Speedwell Court.
Vicki said: "We wanted to make the link between the two maritime cities and the significance of both places in the Mayflower and Speedwell journeys.
"The idea is to commemorate and acknowledge the importance of these journeys and their legacy, the hardships, the heritage and the links with America today.
"We strongly encouraged the residents to input their own ideas, and we hope to be able to add in some small panels they will be making when face-to-face workshops can safely resume later in the year."
The mosaic was unveiled at Speedwell Court on 13 May by the Rt Hon Paul Holmes MP, with others including the Mayor of Eastleigh attending by video call.
Mr Holmes said: "I was absolutely delighted to visit Speedwell Court today to unveil a hand-made mosaic situated in the sensory garden, as part of a community project.
"It was lovely to chat to staff and residents at this wonderful care home and hear about the innovative ways everyone has been keeping in touch with loved ones during the pandemic."
Deborah Holmes, customer relations manager at Speedwell Court, added: "We are thrilled to have loan of this beautiful commemorative mosaic project, which have installed in our publicly accessible sensory garden.
"We invite our residents and, when it is safe to visit, also their families and our community friends, to enjoy the mosaic and learn more about the Mayflower journey."
Vicki and the Speedwell Court activities team will be supporting Speedwell Court residents to make their own mosaic to commemorate the Speedwell, and will be installing this once the Mayflower mosaic returns to Plymouth.
Deborah continued: "It will sit alongside a special planting in the garden, and the colours from the Thanksgiving Bracelet (a popular American story) will be reflected in the mosaic.
"We hope that both mosaics will enable conversations about the journey and its significance, and they will be permanent reminders of the events of 400 years ago and a point of reflection on the narrative and the legacy of these journeys."
In autumn 2021, the Mayflower Mosaic will make its return journey to Plymouth, mirroring the journey of the Mayflower four centuries ago.
Vicki said: "This creative project has enabled residents and all involved to have time to reflect and discuss the journey and our long term links with America.
"The mosaics will continue to contribute to this legacy by being a place to visit and reflect. We hope that the mosaic’s permanent home in the garden at Mayflower Court will facilitate this for Plymouth residents and our friends in the community, while the mosaic made by the Speedwell Court residents does likewise for Southampton."
The mosaic project was made possible by funding from Mayflower 400 Community Sparks, a partnership project between Mayflower 400, Plymouth Culture, Plymouth City Council, The Box and Vital Sparks.
Fiona Evans, Community Development Producer at Community Sparks, said: "Mayflower 400 Community Sparks is all about providing opportunities for everyone to engage with the Mayflower story.
"We are delighted that this beautiful mosaic has been produced in collaboration with the residents of The Abbeyfield Society. Installing the mosaic in Southampton whilst Mayflower Court is completed is a brilliant idea. Building bridges between residents and communities has never been more important."
Vicki added: "It has been a lovely collaboration and a unique opportunity involving history, creativity and commemoration. The project has also had a really positive effect on our residents over the course of the pandemic, and we have used art as a tool to help with their wellbeing at this difficult time."
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