People from far and wide are being invited to Harwich for a spectacular Illuminate Festival to kickstart a year of worldwide Mayflower 400 celebrations.

An annual event for several years now, this year’s Illuminate Festival taking place on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 November will be much bigger and bolder than before in recognition of the date’s significance.

2020 is a year of celebration of the 400th anniversary of the sailing of The Mayflower to the New World, carrying the Pilgrims, a year which will be book-ended by Illuminate Festivals in November around Thanksgiving.

Historic Harwich has a strong link to The Mayflower as home to the ship, its master Captain Christopher Jones – whose house still stands in Kings Head Street – and some of its crew. For this reason Harwich is part of the Mayflower 400 Compact, an international group of destinations linked to the story.

Hosted by Steve Scruton and Ian Wyatt, best known for hosting Radio Airshow and their regular hosting of BBC Essex programmes, Illuminate Festival will include some incredible live entertainment with some unique acts, as well as immersive projections right across Harwich Quay, holograms and a sound and light show. Central to the festival will be the Illuminate Parade on Friday, with crowds gathering from 5pm to assemble before the procession through the old town at 5.45pm.

Saturday will have a more relaxed, festival feel with music hosted by Steve and Ian from 3pm, before the event kicks off with a bang at 4pm with a fireworks flight from the Fireflies (Saturday only) – a firm favourite in the Clacton Airshow twilight display. Both nights will conclude at around 10pm.

This is free to attend.

Location: Harwich Quay, Harwich, CO12 3HH

Date and time: 29th – 30th November

Friday 5:00pm – 9:30pm

Saturday 3:30pm – 9:30pm

How to get here:


3 minute walk to the Quay from Trinity House Car Park

8 minute walk to the Quay from Mayflower Heritage Centre

14 minute walk to the Quay from Harwich Green

20 minute walk to the Quay from Milton Road Car Park


9 minute walk to the Quay from the Harwich train station


Harwich Harbour Ferry  will be running from 15:50 – 22:30 on Friday, and 14:50 – 22:30 on Saturday for the first time! There will be a service between Harwich, Shotley and Felixtowe.

Free Car parks 

Trinity House, CO12 3JW (car park open from 6pm)

Harwich Green , CO12 3NL

Harwich Mayflower Heritage Centre,  CO12 3ND (car park open from 6pm Friday and 3pm Saturday)

Milton Road Car Park, CO12 3LA

Find out more