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Mayflower 400 Largescale Artwork Unveiled on Plymouth Coastline

The ‘Speedwell’ installation on the Mount Batten Breakwater seeks to inspire discussion and debate about the legacy and impact of the Mayflower

Published on September 7, 2020

Mayflower 400 Mayflower 400 Largescale Artwork ‘Speedwell’ on Mount Batten Breakwater. All photos: Wayne Perry

On Friday September 4, a new large-scale art installation on Mount Batten Breakwater in Plymouth was opened to the public, as part of the city's commemorations of the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower sailing.

The installation, which consists of illuminated letters 'No New Worlds', has been designed by artist collective Still/Moving to encourage discussion and debate about the Mayflower and its legacy, including the impact of colonialism and the ecological state of the planet. The installation is lit up by 3,723 LED Lights, is 63 meters long and 6 meters high.

The artwork is named 'Speedwell', referring to the companion ship to the Mayflower, which was unable to make the Transatlantic voyage due to a leak. The letters which make up the installation are lit up in different patterns, offering multiple readings of the message. For example, at some times the letters 'World' will be all that is lit up, whilst at other times the letters will be lit up to illuminate 'New Worlds' or 'No New Worlds'.

Explaining the purpose behind the installation, Still/Moving artist Léonie Hampton said "In response to the Mayflower 400 commemorative programme, Still/Moving wanted to find a way to offer audiences an open invitation to stop, think and talk about the damage in the world. The voyage of the Mayflower, Speedwell and what we have learnt in the 400 years since they set sail, give an opportunity to reflect and find better ways to understand the impact of those pivotal voyages and the ongoing colonial process".

Dr Stephanie Pratt, a consultant on the project, went on to say that "It is especially important to me that Speedwell’s No New Worlds installation acknowledges the presence of the Indigenous Peoples of North America for some 12,000 years before Europeans came to their lands. As one of the most visible public works this autumn, Speedwell’s illuminated messages question what it means to commemorate, and I welcome this addition to the Mayflower commemoration in Plymouth".

WHAT DO YOU THINK?As an American, what's your reaction to this artwork? As part of the installation's aim to encourage discussion, members of the public are being invited to participate in those discussions by writing messages / telling stories which are then added to the metal structure holding the letters up. The public can do this either by visiting the installation in person, or by submitting a message in text or audio format online. If you'd like to do this, go to www.speedwell.live. Or you can tell other Americans by emailing us at editor@theamerican.co.uk

For more information on the Speedwell project, go to stillmoving.org/projects/speedwell, and for more information on the Mayflower 400 commemorations, check out www.mayflower400uk.org

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