The Winchester Hat Fair is the longest running festival of street performers in the UK. Although I live about 35 miles away, I had never heard of the event, but it turns out to be quite a big deal. Held on the 4th – 6th of July (the first weekend of July being the annual bookmark in most Wintonian’s calendars), the city has paid host to the event since 1974.

[Click on images for large versions]

Jeremy Farquar_Winchester Hat Fair 2014_005_© Harvey Mills

Originally, the Hat Fair was a buskers gathering but it has evolved over the last 40 years into the international event that it is today. Street Performers, or ‘Hatters’, come from far and wide – acrobats; musician; clowns, artists; actors; jugglers; all types of street entertainment for every age group, from Europe and as far away as New Zealand. [Above: the hugely entertaining Jeremy Farquar – ex butler to the rich and powerful]

Dizzy O'Dare_Winchester Hat Fair 2014_003_© Harvey Mills

As well as performance in the main streets, the Abbey Gardens and other impeccably manicured lawns were the venue for various artists. [Above: one of the Dizzy O’Dare performers as they put on a show to an appreciative crowd on Friday afternoon].

Metalu A Chahuter_Winchester Hat Fair 2014_011_© Harvey Mills

Above: this stunning installation was held in the dappled gardens of the Cathedral outer close. Les Robes des Princesses’ by Delphine Sekulak, couldn’t have been displayed on a more suitable canvas.

Shay Horay_Winchester Hat Fair 2014_© Harvey Mills This Guy! One of my personal favourites from the weekend. I caught Kiwi Shay Horay’s hilarious ‘Rubber Band Boy’ [Above and Below] act several times over the weekend. His engagement with the crowd was amazing.

Shay Horay_Winchester Hat Fair 2014_010_© Harvey Mills

Betty Brawn_Winchester Hat Fair 2014_012_© Harvey Mills

Above: Betty Brawn IS the ‘Worlds Strongest Woman’, I’ve seen it with my owns eyes!

Winchester Hat Fair 2014_004_© Harvey Mills

Above: the locals and visitors to Hat Fair are often as colourful as the performance artists! I met William [Below] outside The Eclipse, a strategically placed watering hole close to the Cathedrals stage area, modelling his Jammie Dodger finery.

Winchester Hat Fair 2014_002_© Harvey Mills

Saturdays weather was very much of the hit-and-miss variety and the heavens opened as we watched Cie du Petit Monsieur [Below] work his pop-up tent routine in the Abbey Gardens. I can honestly say, without hesitation, that this was the funniest slap-stick I’ve ever seen. Had to shoot this on my phone as it was raining so hard by this point….

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Compagnia Circolabile_Winchester Hat Fair 2014_008_© Harvey Mills

On Sunday, festivities moved out of the City Centre to Orams Arbor. Hundreds descended on the grassy park for a day of sun and entertainment with family and friends. [Above: Stoppino, ‘Poet Of The Invisible’]

Les Dudes_Winchester Hat Fair 2014_006_© Harvey Mills

Above: ‘Les Dudes’ supply the omnipresent element-of-danger. [Below: Jeremy Farquar delivers his thought-provoking views in a park setting]

Jeremy Farquar_Winchester Hat Fair 2014_007_© Harvey Mills

 It seems that any festival these days, has to appeal and cater to all ages to be successful, and the Hat Fair is certainly no exception. It’s a cliche, but there really was something for everyone, and if you enjoy photography, there are some great opportunities to shoot interesting things in a beautiful setting. Frankly, I’m annoyed that I’ve missed out on 40 years of incredible on-my-own-doorstep pageantry, as Winchester Hat Fair is a proper Hampshire gem and long may it continue!

All images © Harvey Mills, 2014

Harvey Mills is an award-winning professional photographer, whose portfolio is as diverse as it is extensive. Although a Winchester photographer he works across the UK and beyond, undertaking a variety of commissions, projects and assignments.