HISTORIC Harwich was lit up across the weekend as an annual festival kick-started a year of celebrations for Mayflower 400.

The Illuminate Festival, which took place on Friday and Saturday evenings at The Quay, presented a lantern parade, Tunnel of Light and projections along the old town seafront.

About 6,000 people visited Harwich across the two days, to enjoy the stunning projections along buildings on The Quay and onto Christopher Jones’ House.

The Spark! Drummers led the lantern parade on Friday night, with many children who helped make giant puppets and lantern joining in.

About 90 people were performing in the Harwich Sings Tendring Voices choir, which was projected live onto The Pier Hotel.

Saturday began with a fireworks flight display by Fireflies, and the festival had a real carnival feel with stilt walkers, jugglers, face painting, puppets and many more.

Mike Carran, head of sport and leisure at Tendring Council, said he was bowled over by the atmosphere at the festival.

He said: “There was an incredible buzz throughout the two days, and I had some lovely conversations with both Harwich residents and visitors who said the event gave them a connection to this important piece of history.

“People of all ages had fun, and I also saw some people getting emotional at the We are Harwich film, which highlights what a community of heroes we have in this town.

“This is only the start of our commemorations, and I’d urge people to come back and visit Harwich; when the Welcome Centre and Christopher Jones’ House is open, and for next year’s Illuminate Festival, which will be even bigger and better.

“A huge thank you must go to all of our partners, without whom this event would not have been the success it was – too many to name them all, but most notably The Pier, Harwich Haven Authority, Motion Mapping and the Harwich Festival, as well as all of the performers and our hosts.”

Similar festivals have been held at destinations across the UK, Netherlands and USA as places with links to The Mayflower and its Pilgrim voyage mark the historic anniversary.

Next year sees the 400th anniversary of the Transatlantic crossing and a year of events will commemorate the landmark, with Illuminate held around Thanksgiving.

Christopher Jones’ house, which still stands in Kings Head Street, will open in February as a tourist attraction.