Free Outdoor Arts Festival – Hat Fair in Winchester

June 20, 2018

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Hat Fair
, the UK’s longest continually running Outdoor Arts Festival, takes place in Winchester on Friday 29 June to Sunday 1 July.  The free three day festival, now in its 44th year, brings the very best in international street performance, theatre, dance and circus-inspired events to Hampshire.

The festival will run throughout the city centre on Friday and Saturday with Sunday’s festivities taking place at a new venue for 2018 – the North Walls Recreation Ground, a short walk from the High Street. Top street theatre performers from around the world will busk or ‘hat’ during the weekend maintaining the long tradition that gives the festival its name. Returning ‘hatters’ Barada Street will charm audiences with their acrobatics, live music and cheeky idiocy while Pina Polar takes the audience Into The Wild with her hula hoop tiger dance and knife juggling and Fra Marto will be hanging out her washing with clowning, hula-hooping and fun for everyone in Out of the Blù.

Mighty Mike will be throwing bowling balls and sledgehammers as if they were as light as a feather and driving nails through boards with his hands; Jon Hicks the International Man of Artistry with his deadpan comedy will be dextrously executing outsized artworks,  Lombric Spaghetti will put themselves to the test with a series of balancing acts in Gum Over and George Orange will perform effortlessly on a slack rope rig that rocks and rolls like a crescent moon in Man on the Moon.

NoFit State Circus and Motionhouse’s thrilling dance-circus collaboration BLOCK headlines on the Friday night at Winchester Bus Station.  This show is directed by Kevin Finnan MBE whose previous work has included the spectacular Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Twenty oversized blocks, fashioned to resemble giant concrete Jenga blocks, are deconstructed and reformed into an infinite variety of shapes for the performers to play on, move and explore with daring physicality, split-second timing and thrilling feats.
Other festival highlights include Sur Mesure’s Fillage a fusion of circus artists and musicians combining trampoline, acrobatics and juggling with live music; Max Calaf Sevé interrogates relationships in society today with breath-taking, air-twisting tricks and funky tunes in dip and Helen Eastman Production’s bicycle powered musical for children and their families, Bicycle Boy all feature over the weekend.

Festival goers will be able to set foot inside the belly of a giant inflatable whale to hear wonderful storytelling by Circo Rum Ba Ba in The Whale; use their smartphones to become part of the sound and movement trail of The Hum Winchester by Flexer & Sandiland and go on a walkabout with two strange mirrored beings that have crash landed on Earth with Mind the Gap’s Mirror Mirror.

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The Romanian celebrated street performance company Masca Theatre will transport Winchester back to 19th Century Paris in The Forgotten Crafts of Paris as street traders are brought to life through mime, powerful masks, costumes and theatricality. Two disoriented circus performers will be searching every nook and cranny for their lost big top in Mimbre’s I’ve Lost My Circus and the Saturday night celebrations culminate in a party on The Broadway with music from the riotous gypsy-folk band Ushti Baba whose fusion of traditional folk music and modern dance rhythms will inspire frenzied limb-flinging, heart palpitation and general fervour!

Festival goers can take part in the festival by joining the Hat Fair Flashmob choir – participants attend a free workshop in the morning at Theatre Royal Winchester on Saturday to learn the smash hit song This is Me from The Greatest Showman and then perform it throughout the day all over the city!

On Saturday the gardens of St John’s Almhouses will become the venue for a Village Fete, a calmer space for older festival goers, with plenty of free tea and cake, charity information stalls and live performance by Yoni the female woodland choir.  ‘Living Portraits’, a series of short films inspired by the lives and experiences of the older residents of Winchester, will be presented in the St John’s Chapel throughout the day.

Saturday also features the Parchment Street Street Party with live music, stalls and performances and three student theatre companies from University of Winchester will perform in the Top Hat Competition to win mentoring by the Hat Fair Director to create a piece for Hat Fair 2019!

At the Sunday’s festivities at North Walls Recreation Ground, as well as watching the fabulous hatters, festival goers will be able kick off their shoes and step into a labyrinth of chambers to explore the intense views of colour in Colourscape by Eye Music Trust. The Dance Stage will welcome Candoco Dance Company’s Dedicated To… a touching portrayal of female strength, support and friendship and the Etta Ermini Dance Theatre Company’s perform Roadworks – a quirky and humorous engagement between a dancer and a BMX rider, featuring acrobatics, B-Boying, contemporary dance, BMX-ing and clowning!

The People’s Stage will feature local musical talent, local dance groups and Young Theatre Royal performances. Family favourite Juggling Jake will be back with his collection of circus equipment for everyone to try and there will be mini golf, escape room escapades, the Amazing Camera Obscura as well as fine selection of food and gift stalls and much, much more!

The festival is FREE to attend and takes place from Friday 29 June to Sunday 1 July 2018. Full details of the festival can be found at Festival programmes are available now from Theatre Royal Winchester and Winchester Tourist Information Centre.

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