A FESTIVAL celebrating Harwich's links with the Pilgrim Fathers' Mayflower ship returns next month.

The town's streets will be lit up by a procession of lanterns carried by schoolchildren for Illuminate 2017.

The festival is part of the run-up to the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage to America which is set to be celebrated in 2020.

Schools are joining in by making lanterns and taking part in the torch-lit procession, led by folk musicians.

Town councillors will also take part in the parade, led by the mace bearer, mayor and high steward wearing traditional dress.

People will gather at the Ha'penny Pier where there will be a replica of the Mayflower ship on display and members of the Dovercourt Theatre Group in costume.

The procession will head along Kings Head Street to St Nicholas' Church where a special themed service will be conducted by Rev Canon Margaret Shaw.

Lanterns will be hung in the church and the Illuminate poem will be read. There will also be readings, hymns and psalms.

Organisers hope the festival will be bigger and better than last year, when it was launched, and involve as many local people as possible.

It is being staged by Harwich Festival bosses.

Artistic director Peter Davis said: "We are determined that it will be even bigger and better this time around.

“The response was excellent in 2016 – as was the feedback we received – and this is another chance to bring the community together to celebrate our links with the Mayflower.

“We are keen for as many local groups, schools and individuals as possible to get involved in some way.”

The Mayflower is believed to have been built Harwich and was captained by Christopher Jones, a local man who was twice married in St Nicholas' Church.

The Illuminate festival takes place on November 24 from 6.30pm.