Just about a decade in the making, the Mayflower 400 commemorations have been run aground by the storm of Covid-19. Suddenly, trying to finalise any of our plans for the anniversary year feels like – as Bradford would put it – ‘an adventure almost desperate’. The Museums are empty, the churches are closed, the trail maps and leaflets gather dust. The handling objects in their boxes await curious fingers, the replica costumes await days in the sun, the artists and speakers await their audiences.
It is a shame to see elements of the Mayflower 400 plans grinding to a halt, but it is much more important that we all stay safe. A lot of the national events have been postponed, and we are looking tentatively at our plans for late summer, and even for Illuminate in November. 2021 (‘Mayflower 401’) will be the anniversary of the first Thanksgiving, and so we hope many of our events can be rearranged for next year.
In the short-term, we are developing online content for people to engage with, including virtual tour videos, and things to take part in at home. Key for this spring are our Three Sisters Planting Competition and Open Art Exhibitions. We’re also working on some content to share at the end of May to support Retford Charter Day, which has been cancelled this year but will curate an online offering from contributors on their Facebook page. On the day, it had been planned that Mayflower Pilgrims and the 17th Century would highlight the heritage element of Retford’s historic Charter. We hope it will be possible to incorporate those themes next year, but in the meantime we will join in with them online (see their Facebook page).
We cannot yet say when the Pilgrims Gallery, Gainsborough Old Hall, and the pilgrim churches will be open again. All will be led by central government guidance and not welcome visitors until it is felt to be safe to do so – there may be social distancing restrictions in place for a time when they do reopen. In the meantime, there are ways to bring Mayflower 400 to life in your own home, or safely while out and about. You could download the trail map and take a walk around some of the sites, explore our website and find out more about the Separatists’ story, or craft some may flowers.