Hat Fair, the UK’s longest running festival of Outdoor Arts, is ready to take over Winchester’s city streets and green spaces again – with bold street theatre, music, dance, circus and more.
This summer, Hat Fair runs from Friday 30 June – Saturday 1 July and features the very best national and international acts, plus local and youth talent, all performing in front of some of the city’s most spectacular buildings, on the high street and out on the grass, for all ages to enjoy.
The festival, which attracts audiences of up to 90,000 every year, will start, as always, with the Carnival – an explosion of colour featuring hundreds of local school-children who will be dressed in costumes based on this year’s theme, ‘Shout About It’, and joined by other local community groups who have all played their part in the creation of Carnival. Plus, a Junk Giant puppet designed by The New Carnival Company, from the Isle of Wight, and decorated by members of St John’s Almshouses.
From there, Hat Fair will host a number of shows it has co-commissioned as a member of Without Walls – a network of festivals that work with artists to bring outdoor arts to the UK. Including Thingumajig Theatre’s miniature, wandering puppet festival, A la Puppet Carte; Fatt Projects’ Big Gay Disco Bike, bringing disco to the people; a dance, fashion and lip-synch battle judged by the audience – Family Catwalk Extravaganza – courtesy of Ghetto Fabulous; Sonia Sabri Company’s dance piece inspired by traditional Indian and Persian miniature paintings, Mughal Miniatures; a bar installation that when touched creates sounds – Working Boys Club’s Serving Sounds; and headline festival experience, Unlimited Theatre and Upswing’s Ancient Futures, which blends dance, circus, parkour, music and storytelling and is inspired by West African folklore and futurism. This performance is a ticketed event, capacity is limited, pre-booking is required.
Hat Fair is so called after the ‘hatters’ – performers who hold out a hat following their performance to collect donations. Each year hatters come from around the world to the delight of passers-by, and this year’s hatters showcase death defying hoop stunts (Angie Mack); physical comedy, miming and circus skills (Mr Banana); acrobatics, live ukulele music and cheeky idiocy (Barada Street); clown skills (Herbie Treehead); deadpan unspoken comedy and oversized artworks (Jon Hicks); comic magic (Richard Kimberly); juggling and synchronized dance (Fit Up Productions)
There will also be performances from professional acts such as The Trick Brothers with Skiing Odyssey, which sees two cross-country skiers lost on a wandering journey with an obscure course and ending, featuring street theatre, self-irony, juggling and kind humour; Seve Feathers’ Fleeting witnesses a performer and singer coated in powered chalk combine circus and dance movements to explore the intentions of the body; while, Hands Down Circus’ Tape That is a charming, light-hearted and non-verbal acrobatic duet where two performers construct a visual world with only a simple roll of colourful tape and acrobatics.
On Saturday evening, there will be a party, a guilty pleasures confessional, hosted by Gobbledegook Theatre’s High Priestess of Pop and the Disco Druids – who festival-goers will see roaming the city streets on Friday and Saturday, playing party music – with The Hush Club’s Rave Rover – a glittering DJ booth on wheels. The Saturday evening confessional will be followed by a colourful disco courtesy of The Hush Club – best known for their Bournemouth cliff top parties and festival appearances.
Hat Fair also celebrates local and young talent and this summer, performers from school years 4 – 11, from Playmakers’ Youth Theatre groups, present their one-of-a-kind performances – with themes including endangered species and actions and consequences. Plus, the festival welcomes back Georgina Willis who won last year’s Playmakers’ Top Hat competition that showcases outdoor work from students and recent graduates of University of Winchester. Georgina returns with How to Disappear, exploring disability and chronic illness; and there will be works in progress from this year’s Top Hat entries. Singers and performers from Winchester-based Blue Apple Theatre Company – which works with people with learning disabilities – return. With a mix of song choices and singing styles, and a bright and colourful, friendly walkabout piece that connects with the audience. Eastleigh’s Orb Youth Dance Co. will perform Borderline, which explores the plight of displaced people; while Winchester-based wheelchair dance group, Liberate Dance, will challenge what wheelchair dance looks like, with Lion – St Mesa. Hampshire Cultural Trust’s immersive attraction, 878AD, comes to life on the city streets – the Anglo-Saxons share their stories. Plus, a multitude of other local artists will perform rock and folk song and music; modern songs cum vintage classics; uplifting summer songs; and choir numbers.
Finally, the Crazy Golf Company and hugely popular children’s entertainer, Juggling Jake, are back; festival goers can learn how to screen print; 100 pieces of artwork created by children and young people form a floating exhibition raising awareness of mental health and celebrating the NHS. Plus, spectators can watch a magical miniature show called Hope through a small window of a Brazilian style micro puppet theatre. Charming!
Hat Fair runs from Friday 30 June – Saturday 1 July this year. Last November the charity behind the festival – Play to the Crowd – learnt that it would no longer be funded by Arts Council England (ACE) as a National Portfolio Organisation (NPO), despite a glowing assessment of its application. Fortunately, the charity was successful in their applications for alternative sources of funding to enable this year’s festival to go ahead, albeit in a smaller way (no performances on Sunday).
Hat Fair Director, Andrew Loretto, said: ‘Although it’s a smaller Hat Fair this year, the festival will once again bring joy, colour and celebration to Winchester city centre.
‘From the banging soundtrack and fabulous costumes of Ancient Futures and Family Catwalk Extravaganza to traditional Indian dance with Mughal Miniatures and a party featuring your favourite dance records with Gobbledegook Theatre, Hat Fair will bring people of all ages together for two days of surprise, entertainment and fun.’
For more information visit www.hatfair.co.uk