Final preparations are underway for Illuminate on Thursday 26 November – the first Boston event in the lead up to Mayflower 400 in 2020, when towns and cities in England, Holland and America that are part of the historical story will be holding celebrations to mark the anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage to the New World.
Boston’s role in the Mayflower story is a key one. In secret, one night in the autumn of 1607, a passionate and determined group of men, women and children met a boat on the edge of The Wash at Scotia Creek, Fishtoft near Boston (the location now marked by the Pilgrim Fathers Memorial). Their plan was to escape across the North Sea to Holland and live in religious freedom away from the authority of the English church.
They had made arrangements with a captain to hire a ship wholly to themselves and were taken aboard during the night. To their horror the captain of the ship had betrayed them and once on board searchers and officers ran on to the ship, seized the group and put them into open boats, rifling and ransacking both the men and women for their money, books and personal possessions which they took from them. Stripped of their possessions and hope, the group were brought to Boston Guildhall, the home of the magistrates and the cells where they were imprisoned for a month.
They successfully escaped for Holland the following year from North Lincolnshire and thirteen years after trying to escape from Boston and after living in Amsterdam and then Leiden a group of these men and women sailed to England and then on to America in the Mayflower and a completely new life in new lands.
Illuminate is part of the Christmas Lights Switch On event in Boston, and begins at 5.30pm in the town centre with Boston Choral Society performing festive songs. Lincoln based Rhubarb Theatre will then perform ‘Mayflower’, a new fifteen minute piece of theatre especially commissioned for the Boston Illuminate celebrations. It portrays the story behind the Pilgrim Fathers’ journey to religious freedom. There will be two lit lantern processions which will come together in the Market Place, including a giant three-part model of the Mayflower itself, which took the Pilgrim Fathers to America nearly 400 years ago. They will be accompanied by a new song, composed by musician Jo Freya and performed by Boston Choral Society, and light projections on Boston Stump to complement the Christmas lights being switched on at 6.30pm.
Images: Electric Egg
Community groups have made willow lanterns for the processions, working with artists Julie Willoughby from Zoomorphia and Ruth Pigott from Curiosity Creators (who was behind one of the Lincoln Baron designs). Fishtoft villagers have created waves and Boston Wildlife Explorers have created beautiful fish to accompany the centrepiece Mayflower model. Other making sessions have also been happening with Boston Scout Explorers, Wrangle Primary School, Giles Academy and Boston West Primary School. The makers will be taking part in the processions with their lanterns. It will be a dazzling sight!
Images: Curiosity Creators
Illuminate takes place as part of the Christmas in Boston lights switch on event on Thursday 27 November, which is organised by Boston Borough Council. A Christmas Market begins at noon in the Market Place with free entertainment from 5.30pm to 8pm.
For more information on the Mayflower 400 celebrations, visit www.mayflower400uk.com.