The years 2020/2021 mark the 400th anniversary of the epic voyage of the Pilgrims from Europe to America. Before embarking on their journey to the ‘new world’, the Pilgrims spent the night in Delfshaven. 400 years later this event be commemorated during Delfshaven400.
Initially Delfshaven400 would start on 17 July with a four-week trip through the centuries. Now we have a versatile yet small-scale program all summer long. In the summer of 2021, the festival will still take place, with the theme weekends as originally conceived: a multicultural city event where celebration and commemoration enrich each other.
The neighborhood of Delfshaven is a 14th century gem in a modern city, a hidden gem to be precise, because the picturesque port rarely draws large crowds. Given its impressive history and the many contemporary and historical sights it has to offer, it is remarkable that Delfshaven is Rotterdam’s best kept secret. By joining forces with local entrepreneurs, residents and cultural institutions Delfshaven400 presents one of Rotterdam’s finest neighborhoods to the wider world. Delfshaven400 marks the starting point of an all-encompassing campaign aimed to put the area on the map as an attractive residential, business and entertainment district.
You could call them settlers, or migrants perhaps – opinions tend to diverge on that matter.
That the Pilgrims wrote history is, however, abundantly clear. Their story begins in the first years of the 17th century when the Pilgrims, a group of English, Calvinist-oriented, Puritans, fell out with the king of England. The king demanded that they conform to the teachings of the Anglican Church. The Pilgrims refused, and to avoid persecution, some of them left England and settled in the city of Leiden, the Netherlands.
Twelve years after the Pilgrims arrived in Leiden, they left again, this time to America. Their journey took them from Leiden to Delfshaven where they boarded the Speedwell, which brought them to Plymouth, England. In Plymouth they reunited with others who also wanted to leave for America. Divided over the Speedwell and the armed merchant ship Mayflower, the Pilgrims continued their voyage to the ‘new world’. The vessels were forced to return to England twice, because the rickety Speedwell made water. After these botched attempts, it was decided to leave the Speedwell behind and cross the Atlantic with the Mayflower. The Pilgrims reached their destination on November 21, 1620, where they founded the permanent settlement of New Plymouth (Massachusetts). The Pilgrims‘ voyage and the founding of New Plymouth marked the birth of a nation and are regarded as pivotal moments in the history of the United States.
The story of the Pilgrims is often recited by historians of a proud nation. There is pride about the pioneering spirit of the Pilgrims, about their perseverance and about the society they founded. It is estimated that today, some 25 million Americans are descendants of the Pilgrims. Nine US presidents had ancestors who travelled across on the Mayflower, including Barack Obama. Subsequently the sorrow is hidden in the fate of the Native Nations. The arrival of the Pilgrims and other Europeans resulted in a catastrophe for the indigenous people of North America, after all. Their cultures were wiped off the map, or were severely disrupted.
Pride and sorrow can also be found in Delfshaven’s history. The historic port played an important role during the 17th century, commonly known as the Dutch Golden Age.
This era, in which the Dutch East- and West-India companies (VOC & WIC) established an extensive inter-regional trade network and Dutch maritime power reached its pinnacle, still serves as a source of national pride. Despite bringing the Netherlands prosperity and successfully connecting the world, the widely praised Dutch merchant mentality also brought horrendous suffering to an endless number of people. Both the East- and the West-India companies filled their coffers with profits acquired with the slave trade. In 2013 a slavery monument was unveiled in to commemorate the abolition of slavery and highlight the city’s role in this crime against humanity.
Four centuries after the Pilgrims’ visit, Delfshaven is a bustling melting pot, where people with diverse social and cultural identities live, work and interact. What are their stories and how do they leave their mark on the neighborhood?
Explore this unique part of town with exhibitions, walking & cycling tours, food, drinks and lots of other activities for all ages.
In 2020, Delfshaven400 tells the story of four centuries of coming and going in a slimmed-down form. You can visit the ship Halve Maen, you can experience part of the route that the Pilgrim Fathers took on the water with the Hollandse Vloot. You can also travel back in time with the digital time machine TimeTransit, with which you can walk through Delfshaven from 1620 from the middle of July and view and listen to stories of residents from the past and today. The Pelgrimvaderskerk features a renewed exhibition that shows the history of the Pilgrims and documentary makers from Petites Images and Kinderatelier Punt 5 bring different stories from the district to life with thematic exhibitions. Also outdoor!
In 2021, Delfshaven400 will take place as originally planned, with four themed weekends:
PLAY | opening weekend
PAUSE | contemplation weekend
FORWARD | family weekend
REWIND | historic weekend