Skip to main content

Hat Fair returns for 50th Birthday

The UK’s longest running festival of Outdoor Arts is back in Winchester city centre from Friday 5 - Sunday 7 July 2024 - and this year is extra special as we celebrate our 50th birthday!

Hat Fair: 50 Years Young

Hat Fair began in 1974 and to celebrate this landmark birthday, we’ll have yet more bright and bold street theatre, circus, music, dance and more - everything you’ve come to expect from us. Plus, some familiar faces will be returning to the festival so watch this space; there’ll be more national and international acts showcasing the very best in Outdoor Arts; performances from local community groups and young talent; and the Hat Fair Carnival.

Grand Opening: Join the festivities for Hat Fair's Birthday Celebration!

Carnival is a chance for local school children and community groups to parade through the city centre in colourful costumes they’ve made in the run-up to the festival and this year they’ll be inspired by the theme, Look Back, Look Forwards, Look Up. Then on the Friday evening of the festival, community choirs and dancers will congregate outside Winchester Cathedral for a joyous Opening Ceremony and a chance to say Happy Birthday Hat Fair!

Without Walls

As a partner of Without Walls – a national network of organisations bringing innovative outdoor arts to towns and cities across England – we co-commission and support Without Walls shows each year.

This year the acts at Hat Fair will include NoFit State Circus, Bailey’s Original Seaside Imaginarium and Raggle Taggle Arts. Plus, two Hat Fair returners - Tit for Tat Circus and Jeanefer Jean-Charles.

Expect circus, storytelling, stunts, physical theatre, clog dancing, singing, sword fighting, eccentric juggling, contemporary dance and Caribbean choreography.

Hat Fair’s Hatters

We began life as a hatting event and our name is taken from the tradition of a ‘hatter’ or performer holding out a hat following their performance to collect donations from the audience.

Each year we welcome a selection of the finest hatters from around the world bringing clowning, magic, physical comedy, juggling, unicycling, contortion, acrobatics and more to the streets of Winchester.

Plus, this summer, festival favourites, Garaghty and Thom, will be back with more Streetcomedy to celebrate our 50th birthday!

Returning to Hat Fair

Professional acts making a return include Fidget Feet, who will headline again this year with another aerial dance show - House! - a circus and bingo-themed spectacle. Gobbledegook Theatre, who asked festival goers for their pop confessionals last year, will present Cloudscapes - combining communal cloud gazing with storytelling.

Autin Dance - whose 13-foot puppet, Eko, won hearts at Hat Fair in 2022 - are back with Parade - The Giant Wheel - a moving performance featuring a 12-foot tall wheel and inspired by the impact of people working together. Plus, on the Saturday night DJ Shanaz will return to the decks to get Hat Fair’s birthday party started in style!

Local and young talent

We’re also known for championing and celebrating local and young talent and this year the Playmakers Youth Theatre groups will return with a number of entirely original book-themed shows; the Playmakers Top Hat competition will showcase more outdoor work by students and recent graduates of the University of Winchester; and there will be huge line-up of performances from local choirs, musicians, singers, jugglers, dancers and more.

Festival favourite, children’s entertainer Juggling Jake will be back to entertain the little ones and festival goers can enjoy a round of crazy golf or learn to screen print t-shirts. There will also be plenty of stalls to browse and food and drink vendors to grab a bite from.

A message from our Director!

Hat Fair Director, Andrew Loretto, said: ‘For the start of Hat Fair's 50th birthday year, we are proud to be showcasing a wide range of community participants at the heart of the festival alongside national and international visiting artists.

‘I'm really pleased to be able to run the festival from Friday to Sunday again this year, after having to lose the Sunday programme in 2023 due to loss of core regular funding. The funding climate for Hat Fair, and much cultural work across England, remains very challenging, but we are determined to stage a festival that embraces diversity, joy, community and performance in the very special streets, parks and spaces of Winchester city centre.

‘Hat Fair embraces the unusual, the quirky, the challenging and the humorous, bringing thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds together for a very special and unique event in the UK's cultural calendar. It's our 50th birthday this year, but we're not standing still, with brand new projects and international partnerships. And despite the challenges, we are actively looking forward to the next fifty years and how best Hat Fair can grow and thrive in the future with support from the public, funders and strategic partners.’

Thank you

Hat Fair is possible with generous thanks to Arts Council England's National Lottery Project Grant, Without Walls, Winchester City Council, University of Southampton, University of Winchester, Winchester BID, Culture Ireland, and Pulse Cargo.

You might also like