It’s time again for Hat Fair and the chance for everyone who happens to be in Winchester to bask in some phenomenal busking. This year the newly-appointed artistic director, Michelle Walker, has gathered together a troop of spectacular artists and performers to delight city folk and visitors alike in this playful street arts festival that is now 41 years young. Taking place from Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th July, the festival is free to attend but do load your pockets with donations for the hard-working performers’ hats!
So, who’s actually in Hat Fair? Well, where do we begin? The team have rather helpfully put together some audience guides so you can tailor your own Hat Fair experience according to the type of festival-goer you are: Culture Vultures, Family Fun, Festival First Timers, Mad Hatters or Thrill Seekers.
Some of the multitude of artists in this year’s programme include Winchester’s home-grown theatre company Wet Picnic, with ‘Suitcases’, an exploration of online baggage through bizarre buffoonery. They’ll be on at Cathedral Outer Close on Friday and Saturday, and then at Oram’s Arbor on Sunday.
The brilliant ‘Stopgap Dance’ will present a tribute to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but re-named ‘Bill & Bobby’ at various times in the Great Hall Middle venue, Friday and Saturday.
Gobbledegook Theatre will be inviting family audiences to hear sounds underground in ‘Ear Trumpet’ on Pilgrim’s Lawn on Friday and Saturday. And children can meet and actually paint ‘Blanko’, who’ll be transformed from a blank canvas in Cathedral Inner Close.
If you’re arriving by train, or even if you aren’t, pop along to Winchester Station for a steamy romance from Flintlock Theatre at various times on Friday and Saturday. Bad Brass Band’s ‘Lands of Hope and Glory’ will be wandering the city playing rousing English tunes to keep everybody feeling nicely nostalgic.
At 12pm on Saturday there’ll be a ‘Swingtime’ dance flash mob. You can go online to learn the routine in advance if you’re super keen, or there’s also a workshop at the Great Hall in the morning. Time for a cuppa? If you visit the Brooks Shopping Centre, director Rebecca JS Nice will be exploring intimacy and immersion in her piece ‘How do you take it?’, part of Hat Fair Fringe, a new platform this year for emerging performers sponsored by the University of Winchester.
If it all gets a bit much and you need some down-time, Oxfam Books and Music have kindly sponsored an outside library in Abbey Gardens where you can settle down for a while with a good book.
Southpaw Dance will be providing a spectacular finale to Saturday night’s events at the bus station with Carousel, a fairground spectacular. The fairground itself will open at 7.45pm and the performance from this headline act will start at 9pm.
As usual, everything will wind down on Oram’s Arbour on Sunday, with plenty of food and entertainment for family audiences, including the amazing ‘Amazing Mr Fish’ and the chance to visit an authentic Camera Obscura.
Don’t forget to get the Hat Fair ‘app’ so you can hop from venue to venue and see as many events as possible.
Happy Hatting, one and all!