Mayflower 400 Southampton

Southampton explores its hidden heritage as part of the relaunched national Mayflower 400 anniversary programme

17 Sep 2020

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower.  An international programme of events, joining 12 cities and four nations across the UK, Netherlands and USA, relaunches on Wednesday 16 September (the day the ship left Plymouth, England) after being delayed by the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic. Southampton is a key partner in this programme, it reopened its programme on 15 August in line with the local anniversary, and will be running events through to March 2021.

As part of its commitment to being a City of Sanctuary, Southampton will be the first city to mark a Mayflower anniversary through the lens of migration. The Mayflower is one of many thousands of ships which have come to, or left Southampton, carrying people seeking refuge, or people migrating to or from the city.  The anniversary programme hopes to remember and reveal those stories through a wide-ranging offer of online and live events.

This week you can visit A Mile in My Shoes, presented by Empathy Museum, running at Westquay from 12-20 September. Visitors can literally walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, listening to the original owner’s story. The installation includes eight new local stories from Southampton, commissioned by Mayflower 400.  These include Black History Month Director Lou Taylor, Italian hip-hop artist Ciro Scognamiglio, community radio director Ram Kalyan “Kelly” and Art Asia Chair, Dahlia Jamil. Book a free ticket.

Also announced today is £60,000 of grant funding which will allow local communities to tell their stories. Migration trails, oral histories and new artistic commissions will allow new voices to be heard, giving ‘hidden histories’ a platform to be explored in Southampton. Awards, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Southampton City Council, have gone to 19 projects exploring a wide range of heritage stories including: African Bridal traditions, Chinese culture, stories of Muslim seafarers, as well as supporting events such as Heritage Open Days and Black History Month.

Southampton City Council has also commissioned for the anniversary, with the support of Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, a number of art and heritage projects enabling the city’s cultural sector to work with communities to tell stories. Art Asia are leading one of these, Belonging. This exciting project delivers a series of creative online tutorials in music, storytelling and crafts, which will generate material for a large-scale installation in Westquay later in November. Resources can now be accessed online for you to join in at home.

Dahlia Jamil, Chair of Art Asia said:
“Belonging is an interpretation of the Mayflower story, which we believe is an enriching point of discussion for families and communities to introduce the question: what does it mean to belong? We will be collecting creative responses to this question to use in an interactive installation which pulls together the many different communities in the city. We hope in doing so to generate a stronger, more connected sense of belonging in Southampton.”

Other projects include the collection of 12 new oral histories for the City Archive capturing the experiences of people who have migrated to the city over the past 70 years, or who have come here seeking refuge.  These stories will inform a film project for young people led by City Eye and a new music commission led by Turner Sims and composer Tunde Jegede.  Working with local historians and the Parkes Institute (University of Southampton) a series of short films will made available online over the course of the year highlighting the long history of refuge and migration in Southampton and its impact on the cultural, political and economic life of the city.  These will be supported early in 2021 by a series of online talks and discussions.

Various other heritage and art projects have also started. You can visit Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America at SeaCity Museum until the 18th October. Wampum belts are stories of communities and culture, and this unique display will feature work and materials from Native American artists and items on loan from Saffron Walden Museum. – Book tickets here.   Also, the City Art Gallery’s online Open Exhibition takes the theme of Journeys to a New World .  More projects will be announced throughout the year. You can keep up to date on:

Councillor Satvir Kaur, Cabinet Member for Homes, Communities and Culture said: “Southampton is rightly proud of its important maritime and local heritage and its role as a gateway city. We’re thrilled to be exploring more of the city’s hidden histories and our communities’ heritage as part of the Mayflower 400 programme, we hope you find something that inspires you to share your story”.

Caterina Loriggio, Mayflower 400 Southampton Anniversary Director said: “Mayflower 400 Southampton aims to tell the story of Southampton, a city and community, built on migration. The programme is doing this through a series of inclusive programmes and new opportunities, allowing people from all walks of life to explore and tell their stories, maybe for the first time. Education resources, touring exhibitions, digital content and new plaques fitted to the Mayflower Memorial will highlight previously overlooked local histories, as well as mark the impact of the Mayflower sailing on the Wampanoag people”.

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