On 16th September 1620, the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth to the New World. Carrying 102 Puritan passengers, the ship spent ten weeks crossing the treacherous Atlantic Ocean before arriving in Massachusetts on 11th November. With 2020 being the 400th anniversary of its historic journey, Mayflower Reflections is a virtual reality film that explores this momentous voyage.
Believing that the Church of England was beyond redemption, the Puritans abandoned their country in search of a place where they could pray openly and live without fear of persecution. A similar exodus of people can still be seen today, with refugees giving up their livelihoods to seek sanctuary overseas. Created by MBD, an arts organisation specialising in creative digital storytelling, Mayflower Reflections is a 12-minute immersive experience that asks how far we have come since the ship’s passengers set out their idea of a constitution for a free world.
Charlotte Angharad is Business Director at MBD: “Mayflower Reflections is as much about today’s political landscape as it is the early settlements of the Plymouth Colony. The film’s unifying themes analyse the world in which we live, acting as a reminder of the struggles of the past, an overview of our present, and a chance to imagine a brighter future.”
MBD has been working with new technologies for many years, applying games engines, 3D design and live render software to create vibrant digital environments. For the most immersive experience, Mayflower Reflections is best watched in a VR headset, but it can also be watched on a mobile or desktop. The viewer can click and drag the mouse across the screen or move their phone around to explore these virtual surroundings. The film is an educational narrative, inviting you to consider the parallels between the historic voyage and the movement of people in our modern world. Simultaneously, it enables the audience to feel they are part of the journey through the immersive nature of virtual reality and 360-degree video.
Whilst visually stunning, Mayflower Reflections uses smooth scene transitions to amplify the themes of motion, change, renewal and the pursuit of freedom. In the process, it shows how the plights of 17th century pilgrims and contemporary refugees are surprisingly similar. It concludes with excerpts from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, highlighting the importance of acceptance and an individual’s right to seek protection in other countries.
Mayflower Reflections is funded by Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund and supported by Mayflower 400 and Pilgrim Roots. It was created with the help of Dr Anna Scott of the University of Lincoln, who provided valuable insight into the journeys made by the Puritans of the North in particular.
Charlotte adds: “There’s so much conversation about the Mayflower legacy, but our film instead focuses on why would people get on a boat and risk their lives. We’re still seeing this in the news today, with families fleeing their homes without any guarantee that they’ll get to the other side. We’re shining a light on these brave souls in the hope that society takes notice and viewers play their part in extending a helping hand.”