What is the festival?

The 400th anniversary commemorations of the sailing of the Mayflower ship from the Thames in 1620 by local owner and master Christopher Jones take place in 2020. Connected with these events, Illuminate Rotherhithe is a free autumn festival organised by and for local people.

The overall theme of the Illuminate Rotherhithe festival is Migration. The dedicated thread for 2018 was the River Thames. In 2019 the theme is Trade.

The name Rederheia (Rotherhithe) was first recorded in 1105 and Rotherhithe was originally a place of marshland. Bermondsey (possibly meaning ‘Beornumund’s Island’) first appears as Norman, with the building of Bermondsey Abbey founded as a Cluniac monastery in 1082. Both areas have rich layers of family, local, national and international history running through them.

The name ‘Illuminate’ derives from William Bradford (the Governor of the Pilgrim community in Plymouth, US) who wrote in his journal: ‘Just as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many’, and the festival is inspired by the motto of the new Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey created from three smaller boroughs in 1900: Prosunt Gentribus Artes – Arts Profit the People.

In the context of Rotherhithe & Bermondsey’s particular and changing circumstances, there is a need to grow our resilience and our understanding of each other.

The more we mix, the more we feel part of the community, and the aim of the festival is to encourage our communities to be involved, to participate, to collaborate and to mix.

The festival always welcomes new volunteers.

Header image: Duncan Grant, Rotherhithe 1933© Museum of London

Photographs: Annabel Stockman