Hold on to your Hats: Winchester’s beloved Hat Fair Festival takes place this weekend, from Friday 5th to Sunday 7th July 2019. Did you know that Hat Fair is the UK’s longest running festival of Outdoor Arts?
Celebrating 45 years this summer, the festival, which welcomed audiences of over 70,000 last year, is set to host acts from across the region, to international performers, and will entertain all ages. Performances, activities and installations will take place throughout the city centre on Friday and Saturday, with the festivities moving to North Walls Recreation Ground on Sunday.
Hat Fair starts on Friday at 12 noon with Hat’s Fair ‘Fabulous’ Carnival. Hundreds of school-children will leave The Great Hall in brightly coloured costumes they have made for the event. They will be followed by Thingumajig Theatre’s Ghost Caribou – two giant puppets, part caribou / part spirit.
One of last year’s headline acts, Motionhouse, returns with a new piece co-commissioned by Hat Fair, called WILD. Performers will carry out daring moves across a forest of poles. Prepare to be amazed!
Audiences will also enjoy Tickertape Parade’s Fantabulosa!, with interactive storytelling, lip-sync, dress-up, games and song inviting them to explore who they want to be. Then on Saturday night, festival goers are encouraged to get involved with a giant ceilidh hosted by Folk Dance Remixed.
Hat Fair is so-called due to the tradition of street artists busking or ‘hatting’ after their show. Some international hatters to look out for over the three days include Spain’s experimental juggler, Grumpy Pants; energetic dancer, BBoy illwill (USA); and Australian contortionists, The Maids. Also, festival favourites, Barada Street and Street Comedy return with acrobatics, comedy and live music.
This year the festival boasts a UK premiere with Money for Free by John Fisherman, from Spain. He invites the public to think about capitalism, society and money in a game that explores what extent the audience is aware of society’s ability to work as a team to make decisions and empower themselves.
On Saturday University of Winchester students perform in the Top Hat Competition, to win mentoring from the Hat Fair Director, Andrew Loretto, and return to Hat Fair 2020 as an official act. Plus, last year’s winner, Martin Jakeman, returns with Home Fires, inspired by Second World War stories.
There is plenty of local talent across the weekend, including Marwell Zoo Choir; puppetry from Blue Apple, which supports performers with disabilities; dance from Prince’s Mead School Dance Squad. The public can also play a street piano and keen singers are welcome to join Hat Fair’s Flashmob Choir.
Young audiences will enjoy Magic Glen; arts and crafts and learning to juggle; while St John’s Almshouses Lawn will provide a calm space for older audiences – with free tea, coffee and cake. There will also be mini-golf, a fun fair, an escape room, food, drink and gift stalls too.
For more information, visit www.hatfair.co.uk. Festival programmes are available from Theatre Royal Winchester, Winchester Tourist Information Centre, and other local distributors.