Schools step on board to learn about Mayflower ship

Grand Theatre of Lemmings

A theatre company has got 40 primary schools on board with its special project celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage.

The Grand Theatre of Lemmings, based in Manningtree, was awarded a grant from Essex County Council and National Lottery Heritage Fund to tour all of Tendring’s primary schools this year with an immersive theatrical production called Step On Board.

The project was designed to tell the story of Harwich captain Christopher Jones who sailed the Mayflower to America in 1620.

Harwich has strong links to the ship and Jones’ house still stands in the town to this day.

The Grand Theatre of Lemmings is an organisation which works with young people to help them celebrate their heritage.

Before the pandemic the company piloted Step on Board to eight schools, which was enjoyed by Key Stage 2 children.

The children were welcomed aboard a boat structure in the school ground by the actors and activities started with everyone getting dressed up in period costume from 1620. During the course of the morning they tried their hands at writing with quills, making ships biscuits, knot tying and learning how a compass works.

After lunch they all went below deck to hear the story of Christopher Jones.

To round off the day the youngsters learnt how rope is made from plants such as stinging nettles, and the afternoon ended with a live demonstration of making rope.

When Covid-19 put a halt to any chance of the company visiting schools this year, the actors put their heads together and came up with the idea of delivering the same information to the schools using film.

After weeks of work they came up with three films and a living history folder of activities which will be delivered to all the primary schools in the district to coincide with the Mayflower’s anniversary.

Mandy Rose, artistic director of the theatre, said: “It’s been so much fun putting this together for the children of Tendring.

“It’s hard for us to go from receiving audience feedback in the moment to waiting to hear what everyone thought but we’re getting so much positive feedback, it makes it worth the wait.”

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