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Hat Fair 2019 – First acts Announced

Hat Fair 2019 - First acts Announced

Hat Fair – the UK’s longest running festival of Outdoor Arts – has announced the first acts from an exciting line-up expected at this year’s vibrant and colourful event.

Held in Winchester, the free, three-day festival, which celebrates 45 years this summer, will see a mix of bold theatre, dance and circus acts take to the streets to leave audiences amazed.

Performances will take place throughout the city centre on Friday 5 – Saturday 6 July, while on Sunday 7 they will be at the North Walls Recreation Ground – moments from the High Street.

Hat Fair kicks off at noon on Friday with the Carnival and hundreds of local schoolchildren parading through the city, from the Great Hall to Abbey Gardens, in bold carnival costumes they have made especially for the event to celebrate the theme: Fabulous. Following them will be Thingumajig Theatre’s Ghost Caribou – two giant, illuminated, creatures, part caribou, part spirit – that will re-appear Friday evening for a night-time show, which, combining music and song with shadow puppets, will tell the story of a mystical land and migration.

Ian Hodgson Photography

Headlining the festival again this year is Motionhouse – a company that performs dance and circus. Last year they wowed with BLOCK that has been described as giant human Jenga; and they return this summer with another daring piece called WILD. Co-commissioned by Hat Fair, it sees performers carrying out daring feats as they move over a forest of poles to explore our human relationship with the natural world. Once again it should leave audiences in awe.

5 performers on scaffolding

Photography by dan Tucker

Fantabulosa! by Tickertape Parade – which combines art experiences for underrepresented voices with social engagement – invites audiences to join some of the UK’s leading drag performers for a glittering, queer-positive show that entertains with interactive storytelling, lip-sync, dress-up, games and songs. Created for 3 – 8 year olds – and everyone else – the performances and activities aim to encourage people to explore whoever they want to be.

Fantabulosa! Hat Fair Winchester

Emma Jones Photography

The public can also get involved with a piece called Congregation, created by multi-award winning composer and artist, Ray Lee. Groups gather in various locations around the city and each person is given a mysterious silver ball to carry, which gives off a hum that gets louder as it gets closer to the other groups. When the groups finally meet, the musical finale promises a beautiful sound and feeling of community and belonging for everyone taking part.

Wild N Beets, creators of outdoor shows, bring to the festival the classic balancing game, Buck A Roo – with a cheeky seaside twist. Exploring disability, Buck-A-Brenda features a wheelchair that tilts and tips objects that represent the things thought to weigh down a disabled person, like a charity bucket or bed pan. While Stopgap Dance Company celebrates individuality and questions acceptable appearances as six disabled and non-disabled dancers, representing different eras and fashions, clash.

The acts have been commissioned by Without Walls – a network of UK Outdoor Arts festivals – which commission and support the development of shows.

Parchment Street will host Hat Fair’s Top Hat Competition, where acts from the University of Winchester will perform for the public vote, the chance to be mentored by Hat Fair Director, Andrew Loretto, and return to Hat Fair next year, as an official act. Last year’s winner, Martin Jakeman, brings to this summer’s event, a piece called Home Fires, which will look at the lives of local residents during the Second World War. He will perform at St John’s Almshouses – which will also provide a calm space for older audiences, and free tea, coffee and cake.

Plus, local performers will get the chance to impress festival-goers across the city on Saturday and on the People’s Stage on Sunday. Acts include local choirs, dancers, singers, musicians and youth theatre groups – including Theatre Royal’s own Young Theatre Royal.

This year’s Hat Fair takes place from Friday 5 – Sunday 7 July. Performances will take place throughout Winchester city centre on Friday and Saturday, and at the North Walls Recreation Ground on Sunday – a short walk from the High Street. The free, three-day event showcases the best of theatre, dance and circus acts. For more information visit