He wowed the judges of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent with a magic show like no other, and is now a household name, enjoying sell-out shows across the UK. But Ben Hart says it’s in Winchester that he’s most looking forward to performing this Winter, with his first-ever show in his home city, at Theatre Royal.
You’ve probably seen artist Don Lavelle painting life on High Street, in the grounds of Winchester Cathedral or in a tucked-away corner of the city. That’s because he spends six days a week in Winchester, working in all weathers, and has done for many years, always finding something new to capture on canvas.
“Before I retired I was a chemist,” he says, “and that scientific part of me lends itself well to making sure the paintings are spot-on architecturally and that everything is in proportion. But it’s always the people in them that bring them to life. I regularly ask someone interesting-looking to pose for me for a few minutes so I can add them in.”
Julian Eardley knew he wanted to be an actor as soon as he was old enough to climb onto a stage. As Theatre Royal Winchester’s ongoing pantomime dame he has performed in more silly frocks than he can remember, and this year takes to the stage once more as Dame Dottie in Beauty and the Beast.
“Playing a dame is rather like taking on the maternal role in a pantomime but with a good measure of feisty comedy thrown in,” he says. “Because there is so much audience participation, every show is different and that adds to the fun of it. You just never know what might happen on stage.”
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.
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.”
It’s the UK’s longest-running festival of outdoor arts, attracting audiences of 58,000 to over 200 live performances last year.
This year’s Hat Fair runs from 30 June to 2 July, with a new director, Andrew Loretto, at the helm.
“Hat Fair was conceived as a busking festival in 1974 and is inspired now as it was then by the people, heritage and public spaces within the city,” Andrew says. “Our aim is to transform the everyday into the extraordinary.