In the second part of this special miniseries designed to celebrate 400 years since the Mayflower set sail from our shores for America, I was honoured to have been invited to chat with Mark Wheatley at the stunning Guildhall in The City of London. Since 2013 Mark has represented the Ward of Dowgate within the City of London Corporation. Amongst his many roles Mark has been heavily involved in coordinating the Mayflower 400 celebrations from a London perspective.
In this episode Mark not only recounts the incredible story of the Mayflower and what it means today 400 years on, but also outlines some of the wonderful themed events that will be taking place over the course of the next year. From local initiatives such as Illuminate Rotherhithe, to arranging groups of disadvantaged kids to set sail themselves to the States. Poetry, lectures, music and art and historic trails all designed to reflect endeavor, character, adventure and social mobility.
As it says on the Mayflower 400 website ‘’this is the world’s biggest family reunion – and you’re invited’.
“Sailing from London via Plymouth to America, they meant to get to Virginia—they didn’t make it. They ended up in New England. So it seems like one of those slightly strange stories in terms of its origination.”
The Mayflower journey’s historical importance couldn’t have been known at the time 400 years ago. It’s a story of settlers, indigenous peoples, and the men and women who launched the expedition in the first place. The celebrations Mark is planning around this stunning adventure encompass all aspects of this historical event. It is no lie that tens of millions of people in American and beyond can trace their lineage back to the families on the ship.
“One of the Voyagers wrote a record, On Plantation – and he talked about lighting a candle. That’s been, if you can forgive the metaphor, a spark to a lot of the activity.”
Many of what Mark plans to be 400 different events of celebration, will be themed around illumination and light. There will be 400 people walking through town centres with torches and lights, as well as all means of poetry and entertainment focusing on different aspects of the Mayflower’s voyage.
There will be a half marathon that includes Mayflower elements on top of other lectures and meetups—all with lights and illumination being set up around the historic sights to highlight the very locations that helped launch the expedition, its captain and crew. My favorite of these has to be outlining the shape of the Mayflower itself with light and fixtures so you can see just how small a vessel it was.
The national program started in November this year and runs through late next year. September 2020 will features the big focus on Plymouth, with Royal Navy vessels in Plymouth sound and choirs and senior political figures there to speak. London hosts may events including the half marathon in March framed with live music, and also smaller scale activities. You can find a list of events at Mayflower400ul.org and more at their website to figure out how you can get involved locally, or if visiting, what events to place on your itinerary.