Over 60,000 visitors are expected to converge on Winchester on the first weekend of July as over 200 performances in 20 different outdoor sites take over the city for Hat Fair.
An enormous range of performers are taking part in the festival from the primary schoolchildren who will open the festival with a parade themed around Roald Dahl to the 80-year-old performers of an installation called Bed.
Highlights include an Urban Astronaut ‘space-walking’ 20 feet in the air, children giving adults haircuts, a roaming Grassman wearing a suit grown from real grass and the UK première of a stunning dance performance by Collectif A/R from France.
Saturday concludes with two spectacular evening events. Renowned circus company Ockham’s Razor present Tipping Point in the Bus Station, a show in which performers balance on, cling to, and manipulate 5-metre long poles. Then six female dancers run and leap around on the roof of Chesil Street Multi-Storey car park in the breath-taking Of Riders & Running Horses by Still House & Mayk.
Once again the Children’s Area in Cathedral Inner Close will offer plenty of activities to interest and entertain younger festival attenders. Hat Fair has co-commissioned with The Point Eastleigh a new theatre piece from Sharklegs Theatre. Long, Broad & Sharpsight looks at what it’s like to be ‘different’.
There are many opportunities for members of the public to get involved. 10-year-olds from Winnall Primary School will offer adults free Haircuts By Children in Regis hair salon on Colebrook Street. ‘It is a fantastically fun project,’ said Michelle Walker, Hat Fair’s Artistic Director, ‘but it also has a serious aim of showing us how adults should do more to trust and empower young people.’
The Broadway Visitors will be the location for a mass restaging of the audition scene from A Chorus Line. Visitors can also bring their swimming costumes to bathe in a mobile bathtub which will be pulled around by an Italian Vespa or don a mask and receive instructions by phone at a Masquerade ball.
As always, top street theatre performers from around the world will busk, or ‘hat’, in the High Street, The Square and Abbey Gardens, maintaining the long tradition that gives the festival its name. Hatters for 2016 include acrobats manoAmano from Argentina and Les Dudes from Canada.
‘Hat Fair is a melting pot of international artists but it’s important that we showcase local talent too,’ said Michelle Walker. Winchester favourites Blue Apple Theatre are creating a roaming piece based on Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky, and the Fringe Festival in The Brooks Shopping will present shows by Winchester students and recent graduates.
‘One of the special things about Hat Fair is that it provides free and unfettered access to arts and culture for anybody and everybody.’
The headline sponsor of Hat Fair 2016 is The Brooks Shopping. For full details of the festival programme, visit www.hatfair.co.uk