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Ready or not, Plymouth 400th anniversary is coming

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Plymouth 400

PLYMOUTH — One year, 185 days, 13 hours.
Visit the Plymouth 400 website — — and that’s one of the first things you will see: a clock ticking down to 2020.
In little more than a year the commemoration of Plymouth’s 400th anniversary begins.
The same clock is ticking down in the United Kingdom, where the official commemoration events known as “Mayflower 400” are focused in Plymouth, U.K., and a dozen other English communities, plus Leiden in the Netherlands.
There are differences between the way Plymouth, Massachusetts, and Plymouth, U.K., will celebrate the anniversary.
In England, where history stretches more than 2,000 years, there is sense that celebrating history is not a single occasion, but an ongoing celebration.
“This is nothing to do with looking back but more a sense of having deep roots in our country. But that said, the tourist industry, of course, latches on to anniversaries for marketing purposes. 2020 is an obvious example, and in 2015 we had 800 years since Magna Carta, and so on. But those anniversaries serve as a reminder of what a fascinating hinterland we have,” Richard Brackenbury, a full-time solicitor and part-time tour guide in England said.
The celebration will be different here, where plans have been under way for years to mark the anniversary. Contrast that with the U.S., where a 400th anniversary is a rarity that both amplifies its importance and requires that the first step is educating the public as to its value.
“The 17th century was the beginning of this story, so, yes, we find ourselves doing a lot of educating, wherever we are, about the Pilgrim story,” Plymouth 400′s Executive Director Michele Pecoraro said. She said getting Plymouth residents excited about the anniversary hasn’t always been easy.
In the U.K. many of the events, activities and historic sites are being managed and promoted by individual, oftentimes all-volunteer organizations within each community.
In Retford, U.K., for example, volunteers have created their own Mayflower museum. In Harwich, where Mayflower Master Christopher Jones was born and lived and where the Mayflower is thought likely to have been built, a pub owner, a hotelier and the all-volunteer Harwich Society were the main proponents of the commemoration. Dartmouth, U.K.’s, participation in the commemoration is also being driven by a volunteer organization, which, although the town’s connection to 1620 is limited to an overnight stay by the Mayflower for repairs, is planning theatrical presentations, building a scale model Mayflower, organizing a parade of ships and much more for 2020.
Brackenbury said that while the average Englishman may not be aware or interested in the Pilgrim story, there is an established network of individuals and organizations dedicated to preserving English history.
“Volunteering is massive in the U.K.” Brackenbury said. “Of course, it exists in virtually every walk of life, but the heritage sector would collapse without it.”
There are several hundred volunteers working with Plymouth 400 Inc. in Massachuetts, primarily on events and projects created and managed by Plymouth 400. Several Massachusetts towns, including Dartmouth, Duxbury, Provincetown, Eastham, Yarmouth and Middleboro have their own 400 committees and are planning events, Pecoraro said.
Weymouth, Quincy, Boston and other Massachusetts communities are looking to extend the celebration to their 400th anniversaries.
Reach Frank Mand at

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