Over the weekend an estimated 55,000 festival goers descended into Winchester, Hampshire in soaring temperatures to enjoy the UK’s longest continually running Outdoor Arts Festival, Hat Fair.
The annual three day festival, organised by the Live Theatre Winchester Trust, burst into life with a schools parade on Friday, from Winchester Cathedral to the Guildhall, and culminated in a packed out family picnic day at North Walls Recreation Ground on Sunday – a new venue for this year’s festival.
One of the highlights of over 50 acts and activities at 18 venues was NoFit State Circus and Motionhouse’s thrilling dance-circus collaboration BLOCK. Twenty oversized blocks were fashioned to resemble giant concrete Jenga blocks for the performers to play out a powerful fusion of dance and circus.
Other highlights included Sur Mesure’s Fillage performing a fusion of trampoline, acrobatics and juggling with live music; Max Calaf Sevé’s dip an interrogation of relationships in society today with breath-taking, air-twisting tricks and funky tunes and Helen Eastman Production’s Bicycle Boy – a bicycle powered musical for children and their families.
A fabulously large flashmob choir was created from members of the community, following a workshop at Theatre Royal Winchester, that burst into song at various locations to surprise and delight the crowds throughout Saturday. Those wishing to find a calmer area enjoyed a cup of tea and slice of cake at the Village Fete at St Johns Lawn and had the opportunity to watch a series of Living Portraits, short films documenting the lives and experiences of older residents of Winchester and Corby, in the St Johns Chapel.
The wonderful international street artists delighted crowds with their skills across the weekend – Pina Polar encouraged shoppers to step Into the Wild with her tiger dance hula hoop comedy show, International Man of Artistry, Jon Hicks, created some fabulous outsized artworks to a killer soundtrack and Lombric Spaghetti impressed with their extraordinary balancing skills. Hat Fair favourites Barada Street pleased the crowds with their live music and cheeky idiocy, George Orange amazed with his balancing skills on Man on the Moon and Pete Anderson wowed the audiences with his ladder balancing act.
Dancelovers were enthralled by Company Chameleon’s Of Man and Beast – a powerful and gritty yet wonderously graceful all male dance performance looking at male dynamics and group behaviour, the beautiful Candoco Dance Company celebrated female strength and friendship and Etta Ermini’s Roadworks showcased an incredible fusion between a BMX biker and athletic, acrobatic dancer.
The Romanian Masca Theatre’s transported the audience back to 19th century Paris as wonderful street traders statues came to life, the Rockabilly Tree-planting nomad Wilford defeated a giant inflatable slug in Pif-Paf Theatre’s Seed and Circo Rum Ba Ba enthralled audiences inside the belly of a huge whale!
The Top Hat Competition saw theatre companies from the University of Winchester showcase their work for the public vote and Martin Jakeman Presents’ Hamalot! were crowned winners and win the coveted prize of performing at next year’s Hat Fair.
Sunday’s audiences enjoyed the magical and mystical experience of colour in Eye Music Trust’s Colourscape – a large labyrinth of 25 interconnecting chambers taking the audience on a journey of colour and music. They were also treated to performances on the People’s Stage from local acts including Blow Saxophone Ensemble, Street to the Point, Unity Bollywood, Winnall Rock School and Court Rogue.
Andrew Loretto, Hat Fair and Engagement Director of Live Theatre Winchester Trust, comments
‘We are absolutely thrilled with the response to this year’s Hat Fair. Winchester was buzzing with crowds and international acts, all basking in glorious sunshine and enjoying the magic. The move to our new Sunday venue at North Walls Recreation Ground was also successful, leading to an increased offer for all ages. We would like to thank all of our supporters, investors and sponsors as well as the dozens of volunteers without whom the festival simply couldn’t take place.’
Hat Fair will be returning next year from Friday 5 – Sunday 7 July 2019.