Mayflower 400 Southampton

Southampton’s Mayflower 400 anniversary programme reopens this week – exploring local and Native American stories

14 Aug 2020

This week marks 400 years since the sailing of the Mayflower ship from Southampton’s West Quay, on August 15, 1620. Southampton’s Mayflower 400 programme also officially reopens after lockdown. A rich and exciting programme has been put together, running until March 2021. Activity kicks off again with two exhibitions, the scaffolding coming down on the Mayflower Memorial renovations, and the launch of a Mayflower 400 Southampton website with new films and digital resources. Southampton will be the first city to mark a Mayflower anniversary through the lens of migration. It will be a celebration of the City and its communities, with a particular emphasis on those who have come to, or through, Southampton in search of a new life.

During the lockdown, Southampton City Council and its partners have worked to ensure exciting and engaging activities can still, safely, go ahead as part of a local anniversary programme supported by funds from Arts Council England and The National Lottery Heritage Fund. Whilst much of the programme will be moved online, there are still plenty of opportunities for people to engage live at a number of scheduled events and exhibitions. Covid-secure measures will be put in place at all events in line with Government guidelines. This is part of Southampton’s commitment to supporting and delivering Culture across the city in spite of the global pandemic, and part of the recovery of the city and its journey towards UK City of Culture.

The programme will re-start with the opening of the Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America exhibition at SeaCity Museum on 15 August, running through to 18 October. This is the first time a newly-crafted wampum belt created by the Wampanoag people of the Mashpee and Aquinnah nations will be displayed in the UK. 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. Through this nationally-touring exhibition, commissioned by The Box, Plymouth, Wampanoag artists share their story with images, ideas and wampum – the sacred shells of Native America. They explore the history, art and culture of the Native Americans who met the passengers of the Mayflower when they arrived in North America.

Paula Peters, of Native American creative agency SmokeSygnals and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Nation comments: “The Mayflower story cannot honestly be told without including the Wampanoag nation and the devastating impact of colonization on indigenous people. We are grateful to have been invited to contribute our historical and cultural knowledge to the Mayflower 400 commemoration unencumbered by centuries of marginalization and uncensored by contemporary event planners

‘The people who are participating in the making of the new wampum belt are sharing the story in the age-old oral tradition of the Wampanoag. The White Pine in the centre of the belt tells our creation story – that we came from her roots more than 12,000 years ago to become the people of the dawn. This belt will preserve our stories for many generations of Wampanoag to come.” 

Ahead of the anniversary, extensive restoration work has been carried out on the Mayflower Memorial. The stone busts and pillars have been replaced, the mosaic cupola repaired, the bronze model of the Mayflower conserved, new LED lighting installed, various repairs and cleaning of plaques. Southampton Heritage Federation will be marking the anniversary on the 15 August with readings at the Mayflower Memorial attended by the Mayor of Southampton. To ensure it is Covid secure, this activity will not be open to the general public.

There will also be a small Mayflower 400 rally hosted by the royal Southampton Yacht Club from 15 – 26 August, following the sailing of the Mayflower and Speedwell in 1620, linking Southampton, Dartmouth and Plymouth. The rally will carry a ‘Mayflower Badge’ from the 1920 Mayflower Pageant to these destinations to gift to their museums. 

Caterina Loriggio, Mayflower 400 Anniversary Director at Southampton City Council, adds: “Mayflower 400 in Southampton is emerging from its temporary cessation with an exciting cultural and learning offer which reveals hidden histories and celebrates Southampton as both a global gateway and a City of Sanctuary. We have been working closely with representatives of the Wampanoag people to ensure their story is embedded within the programme, so it’s fantastic to re-open with the Wampum Belt exhibition.”

Councillor Satvir Kaur, Cabinet Member for Homes, Communities and Culture said: “We’re delighted to be able to still bring a Mayflower 400 programme to the city, which offers a mix of touring, national, local and community work; encouraging people from all ages and backgrounds to get involved and share their story. Southampton is a proud diverse city built on journeys and migration and this is a great opportunity to learn and better understand our rich history, while celebrating everything our great city has to offer today. ” 

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said: “We are thrilled that Southampton’s Mayflower 400 programme will reopen this week with the much anticipated and culturally significant exhibition, Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America. Having this exhibition start in Southampton before it tours to other locations across the country is brilliant news for the city.  We’re pleased to invest in this fantastic programme which will help communities connect as well as enrich our cultural understanding – as the work recognises the impact the Mayflower had in America and on the Wampanoag nation, and uses history to take a creative look at migration in modern day Southampton – all thanks to funding through the National Lottery.”

Southampton City Art Gallery will launch their 2020 Open Exhibition, In Search of a New World, from 15 August. They have invited artists, amateur and professional, across Hampshire to create new artworks responding to the themes of journeys, migration and the sea, for a Mayflower 400-themed digital exhibition. The responses have been many and thought-provoking, responding to the themes creatively and with flair. The judges included both local and Native America artists. 

Dan Matthews, Lead Exhibitions Officer for Southampton City Art Gallery says: “The response to this year’s Open Exhibition has been brilliant. Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic we made the decision to move the exhibition online for everyone’s safety. This move has meant that we have had over 450 entries created using digital artwork and more from younger people which is new and exciting for us. Going virtual also meant we had the pleasure of welcoming Robert Peters, an indigenous Wampanoag artist, to join the judging panel, enabling us to get fresh perspectives on the art works and also how we can do things in the future.”

Next month, Southampton will welcome the award-winning immersive project from the Empathy Museum. A Mile in My Shoes, will be at Westquay on the Esplanade 12-20 September. This exhibit will include new stories recorded in Southampton, including that of Tom Wilkinson, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Southampton, who is leading the clinical trial of a new treatment for Covid-19. 

Later in the year, once it is safe to do so, the community programme will begin with projects from, Audacious, ZoieLogic Dance Theatre, City Eye and Art Asia. Turner Sims will continue working with Tunde Jegede to engage local musicians in a new music commission. The culmination of the project is now likely to be February next year. It will be a large-scale music and choral piece composed and directed by Tunde Jegede, a world-leading cellist and kora player. Jegede will be creating new pieces based on the stories of communities who have moved to Southampton over the past 75 years.

These projects are possible thanks to funding from Southampton City Council, Arts Council England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Barker Mills Foundation, GO! Southampton, Paris Smith and Westquay.

Full details on all the programme can be found at:

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