CITY culture chiefs have been criticised for lagging behind other cities with plans to celebrate a key historical event.

As previously reported Southampton will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower's historic journey with a year long programme of events starting in 2019.

Set to include a light show, specially commissioned operas and apps that take you on a historic tour round the city organisers have promised a series of events run in conjunction with 11 other cities in the UK and Holland - all points in the journey made by the seventeenth century puritans fleeing persecution by the English church before making their home in New England.

But trourism bosses in Plymouth are way ahead of Southampton and have already started running events including Illuminate which will light up the city with light installations, immersive visual art and light projections.

City representatives have visited the US, secured £500k funding from Visit England for the national Mayflower Trail and started an Illuminate festival to be rolled out across the UK.

Now Southampton experts say more needs to be done to promote Southampton and emphasise its importance in modern history.

Chair of the Mayflower 400 steering committee - and CEO of Mayflower Theatre - Michael Ockwell said Plymouth is ahead of Southampton in terms of getting their city on the map.He said: "Plymouth are so far advanced. It's genuinely exciting if we do it properly. I think the cultural offer we have here in Southampton can help to tell the Southampton story better than we do.

"We've got Studio 144 opening soon, City Eye, A Space, there so many brilliant things that can happen we need to be better. Five hundred thousand people come through our doors and I see all the Primark bags in our cloakroom - so I know they're spending money here."

Tour guide and city history expert Godfrey Collyer said more needs to be done. He said: "A great deal needs to be done. Southampton is critical to the whole story of the Mayflower, but if you talk to the world they say it's Plymouth - while their role was actually marginal.

"This was where they rendezvoused. They had people in the town who had been spending vast amounts of money.

"When they left Southampton they were off to the new world."

And he added: "If you look at Southampton you've got the Plantagenets, the Titanic, Spitfire, the whole history of ocean cruise liners, aircraft, and the Mayflower. Plymouth have just got the Mayflower. We've focused on the Titanic but a much more constructive story is the Mayflower."

Southampton was vital for the pilgrims as a centre of trade for all the supplies required, not only for the voyage but to establish a permanent community in the New World.

It is thought that the Pilgrims and settlers shopped during the day and slept back on board both ship anchored just off West Quay.

The Mayflower and Speedwell left Southampton in August 1620 - but the Speedwell sprang a leak so passengers and crew stopped in Plymouth for repairs. But the Speedwell was deemed unfit to make the Atlantic crossing, so the Mayflower went on alone.

Twenty million Americans believe they are descended from the Pilgrim community who set foot in what is now known as Plymouth, Massachusetts.


2014: This estimated overall annual visitors to be 9,316,000.


2015: statistics show we had nearly 11 million visitors with nearly ¾ billion spend.


2011-2013: 6.6 million domestic visitors come to Southampton each year and spend £251m in the local economy. They account for 2.1m overnight stays (including with friends and relatives)

Inbound visitors from other countries are worth £54m to the local economy and account for almost 1m nights staying.

Visitor activity is estimated to support 13600 jobs in the local economy

Visitors come to the city for specialist shopping trips and visits to attractions and events (including exhibitions, conferences, entertainment and education), short break holidays, business and cruise related purposes. Visiting Friends and Family is an important aspect.

(Source of above: UK National Tourism Atlas 2011-2013 published by DCMS. Since publication there is the expectation that these numbers will have increased).


2015: The value of the Visitor Economy in Bristol and South Gloucestershire was £1.33bn

Total tourism supported business turnover is estimated at £1.77bn

Tourism accounts for an estimated 28,828 actual jobs – 21,493 Full Time Equivalent