The Mayflower ef­fect

This year Ply­mouth be­gins the build-up to the an­niver­sary in 2020 of the sail­ing of the Pil­grims for Amer­ica. SU CAR­ROLL talks to Charles Hackett of Mayflower 400 about this am­bi­tious project

Devon Life - - Plymouth -

On 16 Septem­ber 1620 The Mayflower left Eng­land be­hind, sail­ing from Ply­mouth on a per­ilous 66-day cross­ing for the New World and a new life. On board the 100ft long mer­chant ship were 30 crew and 102 pas­sen­gers, some es­cap­ing re­li­gious per­se­cu­tion, oth­ers sim­ply eco­nomic mi­grants.

They ar­rived in Mas­sachusetts on 26 De­cem­ber at a place they named Ply­mouth Bay and while still on board signed The Mayflower Com­pact – the first agree­ment for self-govern­ment to be cre­ated and en­forced in Amer­ica and, in­spired by the Magna Carta, the ba­sis for what be­came the Amer­i­can Con­sti­tu­tion.

To­day around 35 mil­lion peo­ple can trace their an­ces­try back to the Pil­grims – mean­ing Mayflower 400 com­mem­o­ra­tions will res­onate across the globe, par­tic­u­larly in the United King­dom, Amer­ica and Europe.

A mod­ern part­ner­ship es­tab­lished to mark the 400th an­niver­sary, The In­ter­na­tional Mayflower Com­pact, con­nects Ply­mouth with other des­ti­na­tions in­clud­ing three in the USA, two in the Nether­lands where the re­li­gious sep­a­ratists had sought refuge and a fur­ther ten in the UK in­clud­ing orig­i­nal de­par­ture point South­wark and the ports of Southamp­ton and Dart­mouth.

Mayflower 400 will re­mem­ber this sig­nif­i­cant voy­age, but also cel­e­brate shared val­ues of free­dom, democ­racy, hu­man­ity and the fu­ture. It’s all neatly summed up in the slo­gan for the project: “Steer­ing our fu­ture, in­spired by the past.”

Ply­mouth is lead na­tional part­ner in the new Mayflower Com­pact with an en­thu­si­as­tic am­bas­sador in Charles Hackett, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Mayflower 400.

“It’s about do­ing things around that his­tory and her­itage to en­gage, and chal­lenge and ex­plore,” says Charles. “To take themes and ideas. Like the free­dom to be who you want to be, free­dom from re­li­gious per­se­cu­tion and the fu­ture – what could, and what should the fu­ture be?

“These con­cerns run through his­tory and are still things we can re­late to to­day. It’s about the idea of cross­ing in small boats look­ing for a bet­ter world. It’s also about the links be­tween Bri­tain and the US, Bri­tain and the Nether­lands and peo­ple in those com­mu­ni­ties.

‘This event show­cases the city and gives it a sense of place’

“These are all very cur­rent res­o­nances. It serves as a ve­hi­cle to have con­ver­sa­tions about what we need to have con­ver­sa­tions about.”

Mayflower 400 started as a sim­ple idea to mark the an­niver­sary and has snow­balled. It will con­nect many dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties and gen­er­ate ini­tia­tives and projects that will have a long-stand­ing im­pact such as The Box, the ma­jor re­de­vel­op­ment of the Ply­mouth’s Mu­seum and Art Gallery which is un­der­go­ing a £23 mil­lion plus trans­for­ma­tion and opens in 2020 in time for the Mayflower an­niver­sary.

“The Mayflower 400 has three key el­e­ments,” ex­plains Charles. “The cap­i­tal in­vest­ment us­ing this Mayflower 400 nar­ra­tive will en­able us to do some things here and across the na­tional part­ner­ship, funded by coun­cils, pri­vate in­vest­ment, Arts Coun­cil Eng­land, Ply­mouth Univer­sity, the Her­itage Lot­tery Fund and a num­ber of oth­ers.

“It’s also about the her­itage and vis­i­tors. It’s an ob­vi­ous thing but we still need to do it well with the mar­ket­ing of Mayflower trails and the peo­ple and places in the story.

“There’s also the cul­tural pro­gramme which el­e­vates it to an­other level. There’s com­mu­nity en­gage­ment which will al­low peo­ple to take part in ways they want to – mu­sic, dance, con­tem­po­rary and vis­ual art. It will be a real cross­over. There’s some early stuff al­ready go­ing on in sport and Ply­mouth Ar­gyle Com­mu­nity Trust are in­volved along with Ply­mouth Al­bion and the Ply­mouth Raiders bas­ket­ball club.

“We are build­ing up to some large scale events in 2020 with mass par­tic­i­pa­tion in­clud­ing some on the wa­ter – the rea­son why Ply­mouth is part of the Mayflower story. It’s not just for Ply­mouth, it’s for all parts of Eng­land and each com­mu­nity has their his­tory and their her­itage. We look at the wider im­pact on the world. It’s more ex­cit­ing than just the his­tory.”

Charles is al­ready notic­ing a change of mood in Ply­mouth and thinks it will reap the kind of ben­e­fits that Hull did as a City of Cul­ture.

“Ply­mouth is amaz­ing and re­ally cre­ative. There are a lot of cre­ative start-ups con­sid­er­ing the size of the city. It’s im­por­tant that the com­mu­nity recog­nises that and is proud of it. This event show­cases the city and gives it a sense of place. It’s about liv­ing some­where that is the sort of place that does this. The Box will change the look of the city cen­tre, and the water­front is chang­ing too.

“It’s about the com­mu­nity tak­ing part and cre­at­ing mem­o­ries to be proud of. It’s about not set­tling for ‘good enough for Ply­mouth’.”

Take the Cre­myll Ferry across to Mount Edgcumbe and walk the South West Coast Path to the twin vil­lages of Kingsand and Cawsand.

Climb the stylish ‘Stair­way to Devon’ stair­case from the Yard to Devil’s Point for great views over Ply­mouth Sound and Drake’s Is­land.

Stroll down Durn­ford Street, where au­thor Arthur Co­nan-doyle once worked as a doc­tor – look out for the quotes from Sher­lock Holmes sto­ries em­bed­ded in the pave­ment.

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