The full programme for this year’s Hat Fair has been released! The UK’s longest running festival of Outdoor Arts, held in Winchester, celebrates 45 years this summer and runs from Friday 5 July to Sunday 7 July.
The free, three-day festival will see the very best international, national, regional and local dancers, singers, musicians, theatre groups and circus-inspired acts taking to the streets and city’s green spaces to amaze festival-goers of all ages. Performances, activities and installations will be found throughout the city centre on Friday and Saturday and at the North Walls Recreation Ground on Sunday. Last year the festival welcomed audiences of 70,000.
Hat Fair kicks off on Friday with the Carnival when hundreds of local school-children will parade through the city from the Great Hall to Abbey Gardens. The theme this year is Fabulous and for weeks pupils and teachers have been busily making brightly coloured costumes and flags to impress the crowd. It’s not to be missed! The procession will be followed by Thingumajig Theatre’s hypnotic Ghost Caribou – two giant, illuminated, creatures (part caribou, part spirit), which will re-appear Friday evening for a night-time show about migration, combining music, song and shadow puppets.
Returning headliners Motionhouse wowed audiences last year with their spectacular show, BLOCK, which has been described as giant human Jenga. This time they perform a daring piece, co-commissioned by Hat Fair, called WILD. The performers will carry out daring feats as they move over a forest of poles, exploring our human relationship with the natural world. Expect to leave in awe.
Highlights also include Fantabulosa! by Tickertape Parade, which invites audiences of all ages to join some of the UK’s leading drag performers for interactive storytelling, lip-sync, dress-up, games and songs, encouraging people to explore who they want to be. The public can also get involved with Congregation, created by multi-award winning composer and artist, Ray Lee. Groups gather in various locations around the city and each person is given a mysterious silver ball to carry. These give off a hum that gets louder as the groups get closer together. The musical finale promises to be beautiful. Or they can immerse themselves once more within the installation, Colourscape, by Eye Music Trust. A labyrinth of colourful chambers, in which musicians and dancers lead the public on a journey of music and colour, it asks festival-goers to discover what it’s like to get wrapped in a rainbow!
Wild N Beets bring a cheeky twist to the classic balancing game, Buck A Roo. Exploring disability, Buck-A-Brenda features a wheelchair that tilts and tips objects representing things thought to weigh down a disabled person, like a charity bucket or bed pan. While Stopgap Dance Company’s Frock celebrates individuality as six disabled and non-disabled dancers, representing different fashions and eras, clash.
Also Company Chameleon return with a highly-physical and fast-paced duet called Amaranthine, which combines contemporary dance with capoeira to tell the story of two people deeply in love, and in conflict. Festival-goers can step inside The Astronaut’s Caravan, created by Tim Hunkin and Andy Plant. As seen at Banksy’s Dismaland, it is a demonstration of how our senses tell us one thing when we know the opposite is true. Or become acquainted with three eccentric tour guides, Mildred, Henrietta and Harriet, who bring a Winchester favourite to life in The Imagination Museum: Wolvesey Castle. Saturday’s festivities culminate with Ceilidh Jam from Folk Dance Remixed. Mixing folk, funk and street dance, the public young and old will not be able to resist joining in with this foot-stomping experience.
Plus, as always, street theatre performers from around the world will busk or ‘hat’ over the weekend – a term that lends the festival its name. There will be mind-blowing moves from dancer BBoy illwill; extreme hula hooping with office stationary in hand from Maple Staplegun; unbelievable contortionism and flexibility from The Maids, and beauty and brute strength from The Strong Lady. Also watch for acrobatics, comedy and live music from favourites Barada Street and Street Comedy.
On Saturday Parchment Street will host a Street Party and Hat Fair’s Top Hat Competition, where acts from the University of Winchester will perform for the public vote and the chance to be mentored by Hat Fair Director, Andrew Loretto, and return in 2020 as an official act. Last year’s winner, Martin Jakeman brings to 2019’s Hat Fair a piece called Home Fires that will look at the lives of local residents during the Second World War. He will perform at St John’s Almshouses, which – providing a calm space for older audiences – will also feature choir-singing and free tea, coffee and cake.
Keen singers can become a member of the festival’s Flashmob Choir by taking part in a rehearsal workshop on Saturday morning to learn the Mamas and Papas classic – recently covered by Paloma Faith – Make Your Own Kind of Music, before performing it around the city that afternoon.
Plus, there will be plenty of local talent performing throughout the city on Saturday and on the People’s Stage on Sunday. Including former foreign correspondent turned folk singer, Ange Takats; jazz comes from the 17-piece Belgarum Big Band; puppetry and masks from Winchester-based Blue Apple, which supports performers with learning disabilities; singing from the Marwell Zoo Choir; while Theatre Royal Winchester’s own Young Theatre Royal will perform a piece about being kind. The public can also tinkle the ivories on a Street Piano outside Tom’s Deli. Young audiences will enjoy highlights like swashbuckling fun from Out of Bounds Theatre; Covent Garden performer, Magic Glen; storytelling; arts and crafts from Green Magpie Crafts; and learning to juggle with Juggling Jake.
The festivities on Sunday take place at the North Walls Recreation Ground, where the international hatters will continue to star. Including performances from Alessandro Carcocci, from Belgium, whose show Chantier Domino sees a workman using tools to very build a peculiar machine that carries out a very simple task in a deliberately complex way! Plus Spain’s Kiki Vita performs experimental juggling with everything from suitcases to glasses of water in a show full of physical comedy and fork throwing.
The Dance Stage will welcome local acts, Swanmore Samba Band and Prince’s Mead School Dance Squad. There will be mini-golf, a fun fair, an escape room, The Amazing Camera Obscura, food and gift stalls, and much more. Plus the chance for festival-goers to have their portrait stitched courtesy of textile performance artist Harriet Riddell’s public pedal-powered sewing machine.
The festival is FREE to attend and takes place from Friday 5 July – Sunday 7 July. For more information, visit www.hatfair.co.uk. Festival programmes are available from Theatre Royal Winchester and Winchester Tourist Information Centre, and other local distributors.