Hats off to a 50th anniversary

For the UK’s longest running outdoor arts festival, and perhaps most unusually named event, Hampshire is the place to be in July – and this year it celebrates turning 50.

Winchester Hat Fair started as a busking festival, taking its name from audiences putting money in a hat, and continues to deliver “the art of the unexpected” through street performances and live music.

Returning to the streets of the historic city from 5 to 7 July, the annual family friendly festival, which launched in 1974, will celebrate its landmark birthday by once again showcasing the best in outdoor arts.

Attracting at least 50,000 visitors each year, the free to attend festival features a mix of professional performances and walkabout shows along with a strong emphasis on local community groups and young talent.

Several festival favourites are set to return for 2024, including Streetcomedy with comic duo Garaghty and Thom; Fidget Feet – who will headline again with another aerial dance show – and House!, a circus and bingo-themed spectacle.

It will get off to a spectacular start on the Friday with a Carnival, when school children and community groups parade through the city centre in colourful costumes inspired by the theme, Look Back, Look Forwards, Look Up.

That will be followed on Friday evening with community choirs and dancers congregating outside Winchester Cathedral for an Opening Ceremony.

Embracing the unusual, the quirky and the humorous, there will be plenty more entertainment across the weekend, as well as a host of shows as part of Without Walls, a national network of organisations bringing innovative outdoor arts to towns and cities across England.

And celebrating the traditional inspiration behind its name, each year the festival also welcomes a selection of the finest hatters from around the world bringing clowning, magic, physical comedy, juggling, acrobatics and more to the streets of Winchester.

For more details, visit www.hatfair.co.uk

All tourist information for Hampshire can be found at www.visit-hampshire.co.uk

Photos: Adrienne Photography