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.
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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]
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].
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.
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.
Above: Betty Brawn IS the ‘Worlds Strongest Woman’, I’ve seen it with my owns eyes!
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.
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….
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’]
Above: ‘Les Dudes’ supply the omnipresent element-of-danger. [Below: Jeremy Farquar delivers his thought-provoking views in a park setting]
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.