Mayflower 400 Southampton

Blog – Mayflower as a migration story

How you can use Mayflower 400 to teach your child about sanctuary and migration

This year, 2020, marks the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower ship leaving the UK for the ‘New World’. The ship carried 102 passengers, who made a dangerous transatlantic crossing in search of a better life. Southampton will be marking the anniversary this year through a series of educational, cultural and community programmes.  It will be the first city to look at a Mayflower anniversary through the lens of migration, looking at the reasons the passengers chose to leave Britain and drawing out themes pertinent to modern Southampton.

There are many reasons why people leave their homes and families in search of a new life.  Some do not have any choice – forced out by oppression, climate change, war or famine. Some are looking for better opportunities for their family – for access to education, for work, for more political, social or religious freedoms. Starting again, in a new country, can be daunting, cut off from loved ones, no obvious support systems, maybe not being able to communicate clearly, maybe having fled in fear or having had a perilous journey and still suffering from extreme anxiety or poor health.  Unfortunately, refugees and migrants are not always welcomed or met with empathy and understanding, which can make the experience even more difficult and upsetting for them.

Perhaps, more than ever, we can better understand those feelings of isolation, of fear, of confusion, of frustration and that sense of not knowing what the future may hold. Now is a good time to have conversations about what motivates people to so dramatically change their lives, sometimes at great risk themselves. We’ve compiled this list of resources to help you do just that.


Migrant, Immigrant, Refugee, Asylum Seeker, sometimes people use these terms interchangeably, but they all have different definitions. Why not start your exploration of migration here.

Education resources

The Mayflower 400 team in Plymouth have developed a resource in partnership with Argyle Community Trust which combines religious studies, history and sporting activity to explore the journey of the Mayflower and the Speedwell in 1620. Watch the videos and download the activity pack here.

The Boat story and imagery has been designed to open a dialogue with children between the ages of six and 11, on the subject of immigration. With a relatable narrative, the accompanying resources (free to download here) build comprehension skills of empathy, questioning, inference and evaluation.

The Red Cross have developed these resources for young people aged 11-16 which are specifically about migration to the UK. It aims to get young people to consider why migrants decide to risk the dangerous journey across the English Channel, and build learners’ empathy and understanding. Activities include: Discussions, role-play, a quiz and creative writing exercise. Download them for free here.

You can also check out these resources from Geographical Association.


Symphony 400: The Voyage — an unexpected twist in a musical journey which began in the classroom and led all the way to the Mayflower Theatre stage. Southampton MUSIC HUB are now making the music available, to anyone, for free here! Including ideas of what you can do with the music and apps you can download to make your own. Where the journey goes next is in your hands….

Refugee week

Refugee Week takes place every year across the world in the week around World Refugee Day on the 20 June. In the UK, Refugee Week is a nationwide programme of arts, cultural and educational events that celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK, and encourages a better understanding between communities. Check out their amazing collection of relevant resources; videos and fiction.

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