“Hat Fair is a bit like letting your cheeky cousin loose in Winchester,” says festival director Andrew Loretto. “It’s playful, it’s fun and it’s full of surprises, but most of all it empowers local people to celebrate and re-imagine where they live.”
Celebrating the street theatre and music that have added colour to the city for centuries, Hat Fair was conceived as a busking festival in 1974. It’s now the UK’s longest-running festival of outdoor arts, and attracted over 53,000 people last year with 120 live performances.
When Paul Bowler of Winchester Distillery delved into his parents’ drinks cabinet at the tender age of 12, the first thing he came across was a rather old bottle of Gordon’s Gin.
“It was surprisingly palatable,” he says with a smile. “Even as a student, when cider and black was about as sophisticated as it got, I always liked a gin and orange.”
An appreciation of quality when it came to drinking stayed with Paul, who after 20 years working in London in IT decided to rethink his career and indulge his passion for gin.
Ask the Bishop of Winchester, Tim Dakin, what he enjoys most about his work and he’ll tell you it’s seeing Christianity making a difference in the community.
“The message of Christmas is that Jesus came to be part of everyday life and show us how to live for God and for others,” he says.
“We might not all agree on how we move the Church forward, but what we do share is the same aspiration to live out our faith in the way that we lead our lives.
Wine Festival Winchester: big flavour with unsubtle notes of socialising and the heady whiff of fun.
I’m at the Winchester home of BBC Saturday Kitchen wine experts Susie Barrie and Peter Richards, who usher me into their super stylish kitchen.
Both hold the prestigious Master of Wine title, making them part of a fairly rare species of experts from across the world. They are also half of the four-strong team behind Winchester’s Wine Festival, which is now in its third year and takes place at Guildhall.
Meet Kev. He’s been selling The Big Issue in Hampshire for nearly five years, and rain or shine he has a song, a joke or a friendly word for the people who pass by his regular pitch on High Street, just outside The Body Shop.
Taken into care as a youngster, Kev spent years living homeless on the streets of London before heading south. “I was the guy you see in a doorway,” he says. “I used to hitch just to have somewhere to go. It didn’t really matter where the lorry drivers were heading. I’d go round the motorways and come back to where I started.”
Winchester marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death with events across the city. Jane lived in Hampshire, writing in Chawton, and came to Winchester for the final few weeks before her death in the city in 1817. From exhibitions and talks to street performance, Austen fans have plenty to enjoy.
Find out more about Jane’s life and work at an exhibition by Hampshire Cultural Trust and Jane Austen’s House Museum at Winchester Discovery Centre. See Jane’s pelisse coat, first editions of her work, personal letters and a collection of portraits up close in The Gallery. 01962 873603 www.hants.gov.uk/wdc