Mayflower 400 highlight events
Breathtaking lights shows, unforgettable festivals, inspiring exhibitions and world-class events will be among the highlights of a memorable 12-month events programme in the Mayflower 400 anniversary year.
In November 2019, a bold year-long series of events began - 400 moments that mark 400 years since the sailing of the Mayflower in 1620.
They range from dynamic community spectacles to large-scale festivals - you can view the entire list here or view some of the highlight events below.
The remarkable Illuminate festival launched the the Mayflower 400 commemoration year at Mayflower destinations across the globe in November 2019.
A dazzling series of events took place at locations across the UK, Holland and the US, marking the first Thanksgiving that took place between the Mayflower Pilgrims and the native American people in 1621.
Dazzling light shows and cultural extravaganzas wowed crowds on both sides of the Atlantic, taking their inspiration from the words of Pilgrim Governor William Bradford of the original 'Plimoth Plantation':
"Just as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many."
The light festival built on the success of Illuminate events that have been taking place every November in the build up to the Mayflower 400 anniversary year. Previous events have seen thousands flock to historic locations like Royal William Yard in Plymouth for an immersive experience, with projections and light installations, live performances and interactive opportunities.
This four-nation civic ceremony will see a 1,000-person choir perform a brand new piece of bespoke music which tells the story of the Mayflower in an entirely new way, along with representatives from the UK, US, Netherlands and Wampanoag.
The Mayflower Ceremony will be an inspiring event and takes place on 16 September, 2020 - the anniversary date of the ship’s departure from the UK to the US.
For the first time in the event history, the Rehabilitation Triathlon, hosted by the Royal Marines, will be held as a public event. Traditionally held in Lympstone, it will be moved to the spectacular setting of Plymouth Hoe for 2020.
This exciting event on Thursday, 17 September will start at 12pm with the swim, which will be hosted in the historic art deco Lido in Plymouth Sound, followed by cycle time trials, held around Plymouth Hoe.
The athletes will then seamlessly move onto the ‘Concept2’ rowers which will be located in a marquee on the Promenade, before moving over the finishing line. The event finish with presentations on the main stage.
As one the world’s foremost Naval bases, with a history stretching back to 1691, Plymouth will celebrate this heritage with military representation from the UK, the US and Dutch Armed Forces to create a spectacular festival.
The Mayflower Muster takes place in Plymouth Sound's natural amphitheatre and the city's iconic waterfront. Running in Plymouth from 19-20 September, 2020, the festival will explore the shared history of the UK, US and Dutch over hundreds of years with a range of demonstrations, displays and wider activities for families.
This is a nationally touring exhibition that will acknowledge our cultural connection to the Wampanoag people who met the Mayflower and ensured the survival of the English settlers. It will include the commissioning of a new wampum belt, made exclusively by the Wampanoag people of the Mashpee and Aquinnah nations, to mark the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower, which will tour alongside wider Mayflower content.
The creative process underpinning the exhibition will bring Wampanoag artists to the British Museum to record, interpret and explore one of the world’s largest collections of historic wampum belts. It will tour venues in Plymouth from September 1 until October 31 - more dates and locations to be announced soon.
The Box, artist's impression
The ‘Legend and Legacy’ exhibition will launch alongside The Box, Plymouth’s new multi-million pound cultural hub, in Spring 2020. It will be the lead collection of Mayflower exhibits for the international commemoration, including content from over 100 institutions from across the world. The exhibition will explore the origins of the Mayflower journey, its legacy and the way in which it has been commemorated through generations.
Further content has been developed in partnership with the Wampanoag Advisory Committee, with advice from the National Museum of the American Indian, ensuring that the exhibition will explore the real Native American story.
The PilgrimAGE Festival 2020
Running from May to September in 2020, the PilgramAGE festival will connect communities across Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire through an unprecedented range of heritage activity, including exhibitions, talks, education activity and workshops.
This will provide a unique opportunity to engage with the Mayflower’s journey in the communities from which the Separatists originated, including authentic experiences stimulated by volunteers and local organisations that reflect the ongoing passion for and relevance of the story in the region.
The Mayflower Maritime Festival will deliver three days of memorable cultural, heritage and sporting activity, promoting the city’s pivotal role in the Mayflower’s journey and its wider maritime heritage. Highlights will include participation from the Jubilee Sailing Trust, a United Nations accredited disability charity that promotes integration through the challenge and adventure of tall ship sailing. The Trust’s Tenacious will be in Southampton through the festival, offering public tours and wider engagement opportunities before it sets sail to recreate elements of the Mayflower’s original journey.
The Street Factory hip hop group
A diverse programme of new performance pieces that will help tell the story of the Mayflower from multiple perspectives. Key activity includes:
- This Land, an ambitious production created and performed by 120 citizens of Plymouth and 30 members of the Native American Wampanoag Tribe at the Theatre Royal Plymouth (in collaboration with Seth Lakeman)
- An ambitious production involving 200 people on either side of the Atlantic to be performed at the Theatre Royal Plymouth (in collaboration with Seth Lakeman)
- A bold and contemporary mass street dance led by the award-winning Street Factory hip-hop group in Plymouth
- New theatre pieces from De Veenfabriek & the Dutch National Theatre, the Mayflower Theatre Southampton,
- A diverse range of dance projects, including work by Imagination Museum by Katie Green
- Music productions, ranging from new bell peals through to opera, jazz, sea shanty singing, folk music and more
Dartmouth's Regatta will form part of its Mayflower Festival
2020 will see a connected series of festivals across the country as each destination commemorates their role in the Mayflower’s journey, including:
- Southampton’s Mayflower Maritime Festival
- Dartmouth’s Mayflower Festival, linking with the town’s world-famous Regatta to provide a great range of events on the water
- Harwich’s Mayflower Festival
- Plymouth’s Mayflower Week; this will provide the culmination of the festival programme, commemorating the departure of the Mayflower from the UK with an international four-nation civic event and the associated Mayflower Muster which will incorporate representation from the UK, US and Dutch navies
New public art will be incorporated into the Mayflower Steps
2020 will see a range of exciting new public art installed across the UK to commemorate the Mayflower’s journey, including work at the Mayflower Steps in Plymouth and integrated into Dartmouth’s Mayflower trail. This will augment existing artwork including Southampton’s Mayflower Monument and the Pilgrim Memorial at Scotia Creek, Boston.
A new sculpture of the Mayflower ship will be created at the home of the Mayflower in Harwich.
Multiple new exhibition spaces and exhibitions are being commissioned to highlight and share each location’s role in the Mayflower story. This will see artefacts displayed for the first time, new collaborations forged and increase the cultural capital of communities involved through 2020 and beyond. Key projects include:
- The refurbishment of Christopher Jones’ house in Harwich, which will open to the public for the 2020 commemoration. Harwich is also investing in a new Heritage Centre which will incorporate Mayflower content and provide an ongoing resource to celebrate the town’s storied history
- Upgrades to Bassetlaw’s Heritage Centre to provide space for a dedicated Mayflower exhibition, which will also act as a hub for the regions enhanced Pilgrim Trail
- The Box, Plymouth, which will open with a range of gallery content that will respond to the core ‘Mayflower 400 and Legends’ exhibition
Food and Drink
Mayflower 400 will incorporate a series of festivals and experiences that will give residents and visitors the opportunity to experience the best of the UK’s food and drink, often with
a Mayflower twist. Opportunities will range from Plymouth’s Seafood Festival through to Tendring’s Beer Festival; these will sit alongside more unique events such as Droitwich Salt Festival.
A dedicated series of national sports activities are in development that will further link communities involved in the Mayflower’s story, including a Mayflower marathon series, mass participation sailing events and professional sports competitions. For example, Plymouth’s elite Leander swimming club has developed the Mayflower Cup series of meets, each themed around a different location on the Mayflower’s journey. This will culminate in the Transatlantic Cup in 2020, which will see US athletes invited to the city to compete.
Worcester's stunning cathedral
Highlight events by location
As the birthplace of the Mayflower, Harwich is building a diverse and authentic programme of activity for 2020 with exceptional support from the local community:
Major local authority investment is delivering two new bespoke Mayflower attractions that will provide essential experiences for visitors looking to understand the origins of the ship and her crew. The home of Christoper Jones, Captain and part owner of the Mayflower, will open to the public for the first time for 2020 with a range of bespoke content and interactive elements. Further information on Harwich’s links to the Mayflower will be explored at Harwich’s new Heritage Centre, which will open in 2020 with a dedicated exhibition exploring the town’s role in the Mayflower’s journey, including a range of artefacts that have never been publically displayed before
Harwich’s updated visitor trails will highlight the town’s Mayflower heritage, set against the beautiful backdrop of the River Stour. These will incorporate wider attractions such as the Redoubt Fort, which hosts activities through the summer including ghost hunts, beer festivals and battle re-enactments
The Harwich Mayflower Festival, a new event in development specifically for 2020, will see a range of Mayflower themed events and activities take place across the town, incorporating iconic sites such as the Electric Palace Cinema and Ha’Penny Pier
Harwich’s existing events programme will pick up a Mayflower theme through 2020, incorporating great events such Harwich and Parkerston Winter Ale Festival, Harwich Sausage Festival the Harwich International Shanty Festival, which sees performers from across the world come together for a weekend of song, drink, performance and more
A diverse cultural programme will deliver further exciting Mayflower experiences, including Illuminate and Harwich’s Festival of the Arts, which incorporates work from local, national and international artists across exhibitions, spoken word performances, visual art, dance and music
Southampton’s Mayflower 400 programme, led by Southampton City Council, provides a moment to reflect upon the city’s rich history and creates a platform to help us explore and shape a present and future informed by lessons of the past.
Mayflower 400 is an opportunity to celebrate Southampton, a city and a community, built on journeys and migration. An opportunity to tell our city’s story in all its richness. We will celebrate all the people of the world who have made Southampton their home and those have found sanctuary here. We will work to ensure Southampton continues to be a welcoming city.
Partners across Southampton will deliver an innovative and inclusive programme that uses the anniversary as a means to creatively explore the City’s wider and longer history as a marine city and gateway to the world. It will invite us to look at who we were, who we are, how our city has grown and to re-think our cultural and maritime future.
Activities will include:
- A special anniversary weekend of family activities all over Southampton, from 14th to 16th August, including the reveal of the newly-restored Mayflower Monument; Parade of Sail; Mayflower-themed musical and dance productions at the Mayflower Theatre; historical events at God’s House Tower; and activities at SeaCity Museum as part of Wampum Stories from the Shells of Native America
- Inspired by one of the most influential poems in the English language, The Rime of The Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), Mariner: A Painted Ship Upon a Painted Ocean looks at what connects us across history and the present, from the desire to travel – to journey out and back again – to the role of intuition and imagination, the making of mistakes and the process of recovery and redemption through knowledge and understanding. Mariner showcases a series of new commissions and artworks at the John Hansard Gallery that consider the contemporary resonance of the poem. Also, at the John Hansard Gallery, new works by Larry Achiampong and a City of Sanctuary Community Takeover
- A Light Art Festival at West Quay in February will start off the anniversary’s arts programme, followed by a series of dance, street art, visual arts, music and carnival art commissions running through to November. Including a new forest planted within the city centre and an Urban Arts Festival. Culminating at the end of the year with a new exhibition in the City Art Gallery, Shadows and Light
- Commemorating Mayflower exhibition at SeaCity Museum focuses on both the nature of commemoration and how previous Mayflower anniversaries have been marked. This is supported by an exhibition at Tudor House & Garden telling the Mayflower story
- A Giving Thanks festival running through the summer and autumn, encouraging communities to share their food and stories together
Supported by a £500,000 award from the Heritage Lottery Fund, partners from across Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire have come together to develop an exceptional programme of heritage activity commemorating the birthplace of the Separatists and the stories that inspired their journey to America. To date, over 100 activities are planned in the build-up to and through 2020, and this will increase as the programme gains momentum. Alongside the PilgrimAGE 2020 festival, highlights include:
The region’s existing self-drive Mayflower Trail will be renamed the Pilgrims Trail, and receive significant investment to increase its scale and content, including digital resources. Through 2020 the trail will be enhanced by a range of activities targeting visitors and residents, providing unique experiences that will engage people with the local landscape and heritage
A new Pilgrims Gallery at Bassetlaw Museum will open in May 2019. This will tell the story of the Pilgrims in North Nottinghamshire, addressing core themes of tolerance, freedom and migration while also acting as the focal point for the Pilgrims Trail
A series of high profile exhibitions will take place across
the Roots region, including a new permanent installation in Gainsborough Old Hall and multiple shows across Doncaster’s Heritage Festival
Imagination Museum Mayflower 400 by Katie Green will use the medium of dance to interpret the Pilgrim’s story and engage young people, with performances based at non-traditional dance spaces such as museums and exhibitions
A brilliantly diverse cultural programme, with activity ranging across performance, photography, health and well-being, digital, writing, schools engagement and more. This is being developed in partnership with local communities and organisations such as Bassetlaw Christian Heritage and the Percy Laws Gallery, ensuring that content will be accessible, authentic and carry real resonance for visitors and residents
Members of the Roots community have been developing additional Mayflower content:
Boston has been delivering increasingly ambitious Illuminate events and lantern parades. This will continue in both 2019 and 2020, build on the vibrancy that has enthralled participants and audiences to date. Alongside this, an engaging calendar of events is in development for 2020, with further information to be released through 2019. Boston Guildhall showcases the cells where Brewster, Bradford and others were held while being tried, and this attraction will be enhanced for the commemoration
Immingham’s Mayflower 400 programme will deliver a range of new events to the town, including a dedicated cultural programme, new heritage trail and enhancements to the Pilgrim exhibition in their museum
Plymouth is developing a world-class culture and heritage programme for Mayflower 400 in 2020. Investment and support from Plymouth City Council combines with wider private/public sector investment to deliver a transformational year for the city. Highlights include:
- The Mayflower Ceremony, a four-nations civic ceremony commemorating the Mayflower’s journey and legacy on the day of the Mayflower’s departure, attended by representatives from the UK, US, Netherlands and Wampanoag
- The Mayflower Muster; as one the world’s foremost Naval bases, with a history stretching back to 1691, Plymouth will celebrate this heritage in partnership with the US and Dutch Armed Forces to create a spectacular festival including live displays, interactive demonstrations and a host of other activity
- A £5m+ investment in heritage trails and public realm spaces, which will provide a major uplift to the city’s visitor offer. This will include improvements to the Mayflower Steps and three new trails exploring the city’s Mayflower history and wider heritage including Drake, Cook and its role in World War II and subsequent reconstruction
- The opening of The Box, the city’s new £45m+ cultural hub. Alongside the Mayflower Exhibition, this will launch with a range of supplementary Mayflower content that will critically explore the multi-faceted legacy of the journey. Alongside this, over £1.5m is being invested in the Elizabethan House, one of Plymouth’s oldest remaining buildings. This will open as a new attraction in the vicinity of the Mayflower Steps in 2020, telling the story of the historic Barbican area from the time of the Pilgrims through to the present day
The Mayflower Ocean City Festival, which will run from 4th to 10th May. This will celebrate Plymouth's status as Britain’s Ocean City, combining the OSTAR and TWOSTAR races with the city’s existing Pirates Weekend and a host of new activities that will get people together on the water
- The Mayflower Makers volunteer programme, co-ordinated by Improving Lives Plymouth. This aims to train over 400 volunteers to deliver 100,000 hours of volunteering in support of the commemoration
- The Mayflower 400 Community Sparks Fund, which will see around £150,000 invested in local organisations to deliver their own content for the commemoration. To date around £35k has been awarded to enable the delivery of projects including an international Morris Dancing meet, new town crier, international quilting competition and more
- This Land, Theatre Royal Plymouth’s Mayflower production, delivered in partnership with the Wampanoag Tribe and Seth Lakeman. This will involve 2,000 members of the community on both sides of the Atlantic, and tell the Mayflower story from multiple perspectives
- A programme of cultural content created specifically for the Mayflower 400 commemorations, including a visual arts production entitled Settlement by the Conscious Sisters, Le Navet Bete’s satirical play The 400 and a series of musical performances delivered by the Plymouth Music Accord. This will augment Plymouth’s existing events calendar, with already includes some exceptional content including the British Fireworks Championship and Flavour Fest
Southwark has a history of developing brilliant grass-roots cultural activity. This will continue through the Mayflower 400 commemoration, with capital investment in the public realm combining with a community commissioning scheme to create a unique programme of activity for 2020 that reflects the creativity and diversity of the borough. Highlights include:
- Rotherhithe Illuminate, a free five day festival created by residents, incorporating a range of great community activities including concerts, dances, music, film and exhibitions. This will open and close Southwark’s Mayflower 400 programme in 2019 and 2020 respectively
- New trails along the Southbank, incorporating signage and interpretation that will foreground Southwark’s key role in the Mayflower’s journey and link to Southwark’s wider maritime heritage. The trail will point to wider famous landmarks and attractions including Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tate Modern, Southwark Cathedral and Borough Market
- A range of bespoke community activity commissioned specifically for Mayflower 400. From theatrical performances and cinematic screening through to talks and visual arts, this will showcase the best of Southwark while providing a range of special experiences for visitors and residents
Worcestershire’s Mayflower programme will draw on the regions exceptional heritage assets and organisations to create a memorable series of activities for Mayflower 400, while also promoting wider links with the US. Key highlights include:
A community celebration in Droitwich Spa on 4th July to celebrate the re-opening of the Heritage Centre
Mayflower 400: Faith and Freedom Conference, held at Worcester Cathedral over two days, aims to explore life and religion in 17th-century England and North America. The conference will include subjects such as religion and belief in Jacobean England, the Lost World of the Pilgrim, the Winslow Family, and the Pilgrim Fathers’ encounters with the New World
A series of additional events at Worcester’s amazing Cathedral, including the Three Choirs Festival, which will bring a cornucopia of exceptional choral-orchestral performances to the city
The integration of the regions existing events programme with the Mayflower 400 commemoration, adding a Mayflower theme to established activity
Dartmouth’s Mayflower 400 programme is being developed by a team of volunteers, who are using their professional skills to create an incredibly ambitious programme of activity for the benefit of their community and to further enhance the town’s visitor offer through 2020 and beyond. Highlights include:
- The Mayflower Heritage Trail paints a colourful picture of Dartmouth in 1620, and also includes some highlights from Dartmouth’s earlier and later history. The route is based on a map of the town drawn in 1619 and remarkably many beautiful historic buildings have survived from that time. Bayards Cove, the old harbour quay, is a focal point as the Mayflower and Speedwell moored in the river close by
- ‘Pilgrim: New Horizons’ is a newly-commissioned sculpture created by Mark Gregory and the students of Dartmouth Academy. The figure is made of galvanised steel, with worked copper panels, and stands strong on the South Embankment, looking out to the mouth of the River Dart
- The Grand Dart River Pageant will be held on Sunday 30th August, 2020, and will launch Dartmouth’s core week of Mayflower activity, following from the annual Port of Dartmouth Royal Regatta. Vessels of all shapes and sizes will take part, with flags and fancy dress, culminating in a sail- past of the South Embankment
- Mayflower Week will be all about involving the community in river- and shore-based festivities. The week also sees performances combining British and American music and a screening of a specially commissioned programme of short films created by local students and led by director Peter Nicholson
- A wide variety of maritime events will take place during the summer months of 2020, such as Dartmouth Mayflower 400 Classics race and the ASTO Small Ships Race, with visiting warships and tall ships moored in the river
- The creation of a 10ft replica scale model of the Mayflower, built by Captain Ian Kirkwood with help from local students, will go on display in Dartmouth Museum in 2020
- A rich cultural programme will run through 2020 with performances of the play Safe Haven, written by Derek Parsons and Keith Myerson, a specially commissioned Peal of Bells by the Dartmouth Bell Ringers and the Dartmouth Mayflower Anthem written by Ed Welch and Brian Patten
The Chorley events programme mixes new work commissioned specifically for the commemoration with the town’s existing events, which will carry a Mayflower theme in 2020. Highlights include:
A series of performances exploring the life of Myles Standish running through the summer
The creation of dedicated Mayflower trails, with accompanying guided tours
A new exhibition at Astley Park’s Coach House gallery; use this as an opportunity to explore the amazing Astley Hall museum
Chorley Live, a weekend of music and entertainment set across 35 venues with 280 live acts attracting over 12,000 people. There are a wider range of performances to suit all the family, many with a Mayflower twist
The award winning Chorley Flower Show, which will include Mayflower elements in 2020
Musical commissions, including a new organ recital composition on the theme of the Mayflower by Clive Jenkins
Further events are in development; keep an eye on the Mayflower website to stay up to date
The City of London is developing a brilliant programme of activity, drawing on their continuing role as a centre of commerce, their world-class heritage sites and local expertise. Key projects include:
- Believe! Tales of Faith, Freedom (and Football). Running from June until September, the City’s annual outdoor events programme focusses on the Mayflower anniversary, Becket 900, United Synagogue 150 and Euro 2020. The season will explore themes of identity, faith and freedom. Under that banner, a variety of events, walks and talks will take place across the City
- Guilding the City. Running through the summer, the Guildhall’s artist-in-residence programme for 2020 will produce a series of pieces that take inspiration from the crafts and guilds represented on the Mayflower
- The Wampum Belt Exhibition, running from the end of May to the beginning of July at the Guildhall Art Gallery. Wampum belts are the creative expression of the Wampanoag people – who met the Mayflower and ensured the survival of the new English settlers – with each shell imbued with memory and meaning. A collaboration with The Box in Plymouth, this exhibition will be the only London home in the exhibition schedule
- Captain of the Ship, running from late April through early August at the City of London Heritage Gallery. This includes a display of the parish register from St Mary’s, Rotherhithe which has an entry for Captain Christopher Jones, master and part owner of the Mayflower
The Pilgrims spent around ten years living, working and praying in Leiden, free from religious persecution by the English Crown. The Leiden programme commemorates the legacy of the Pilgrims in their city, and the reciprocal impact of the city on the community the Pilgrims established in America. Key projects include:
The ‘Intellectual Baggage’ exhibition, created in partnership between the Museum De Lakenhall, Leiden University Library and the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum. This will focus on the books the Pilgrims took on their journey, exploring the impact of literature throughout the Mayflower’s story
The ‘Native Nations in the 17th Century’ exhibition, by Museum Volkenkunde in co-operation with the Wampanoag, which will explore the culture of the original inhabitants of America
Multiple new theatre productions, including by the theatrical music company VeenFabriek and PSǀtheatre
The ‘Meet your Pilgrim Relative’ booth, which will run through 2020 and enable Leiden’s residents to explore their heritage and identify potential links to the Pilgrims
The Pilgrim Walking Tour, taking visitors through the city’s Mayflower heritage. Launched in October 2018, this will expand to include digital elements such as AR and VR for 2020
Content in the US is being developed by a range of partners, including the Plymouth 400 programme and organisations across Massachusetts. The Wampanoag are using 2020 as an opportunity to tell their story, ensuring that their voice is firmly embedded in the commemoration.
Key projects include:
- Plymouth 400’s Embarkation Day, which will link with Plymouth UK’s Mayflower Ceremony on the 16th of September to create an international commemoration of the Mayflower’s enduring legacy
- The Plymouth 400 cultural programme, which includes a broad range of content including education activity, exhibitions, art, talks and more, delivered in partnership with a range of local stakeholders including Plimouth Plantation and the General Society of Mayflower Descendants
- Wampanoag Days, a two day Powwow celebrating the longevity and continuity of the Indigenous Nations of America
- The ‘Our Story: 400 Years of Wampanoag History’ exhibition, which will travel through the region shinning a light on pieces of history that had a significant impact on the Wampanoag tribe, their relationship with the Mayflower Pilgrims and the founding of Plymouth Colony
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