Harwich was lit up at the end of last week for the annual Illuminate Festival, celebrating the historic town’s links to the ship that founded America.

The Mayflower sailed to the New World in 1620 carrying the Pilgrim Fathers, and both the ship and its Captain, Christopher Jones, were from Harwich. To celebrate the voyage the Illuminate Festival is held in Harwich on the day after Thanksgiving each year, consisting of a torch-light procession through the town including giant torches resembling the ship and Captain Jones.

This year key landmarks, including Captain Jones’ house and the High and Low Lighthouses, were also lit up for the parade and musical performances on The Green afterwards.

Around 100 people are estimated to have taken part in the parade, with hundreds watching on. A number of local schoolchildren were involved, having taken part in a workshop in the week leading up to the event to make their own lanterns.

Illuminate is run by the Harwich Festival on behalf of Tendring District Council. Michael Offord, general manager of the Harwich Festival, said it was a great event – with even more planned for next year when the Illuminate Festival will kick start a year-long celebration of the 400th anniversary of The Mayflower’s sailing.

“It was fantastic to see so many people taking part this year and really lighting up Harwich,” he said.

“The town’s links to The Mayflower are really something the community can be proud of and take ownership of, and the Illuminate Festival is a big demonstration of that. I would like to thank everyone who took part, from the organisers, performers and those who made lanterns, to those who came to watch, and together made the event the spectacle it was. It won’t be long before we start planning something really special for next year, when Illuminate Festivals at Mayflower destinations across the country will launch a year of celebrations.”