Visit Winchester > Blog > Hat Fair celebrates 50th birthday!

Hat Fair celebrates 50th birthday!

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Hat Fair sign in a crowd

(c) Adrienne Photography

Hat Fair, the UK’s longest running festival of Outdoor Arts, is back for another summer – this year from Friday 05 – Sunday 07 July. There will be bold street theatre, circus, music, dance and more taking over Winchester city centre for all ages to enjoy – and this year is extra special as the festival turns 50!

Hat Fair, which began in 1974, will celebrate its landmark birthday with familiar faces returning to the festival; national and international acts showcasing the very best in outdoor arts; performances from local community groups and young talent; plus, the Hat Fair Carnival.

The festival, which typically attracts at least 50,000 attendances, will open with the Carnival, which will see school children and community groups parading through the city centre in colourful costume inspired by the theme, Look Back, Look Forwards, Look Up; while on the Friday evening, community choirs and dancers will congregate outside Winchester Cathedral for a joyous Opening Ceremony.

Hat Fair carnival

credit Adrienne Photography

There will also be a host of shows the festival has co-commissioned as Hat Fair is part of Without Walls, a national network of organisations bringing innovative outdoor arts to towns and cities across England. The acts performing will include NoFit State Circus, Bailey’s Original Seaside Imaginarium, Raggle Taggle Arts, plus Hat Fair returners, Tit for Tat Circus and Jeanefer Jean-Charles – bringing circus, storytelling, stunts, physical theatre, clog dancing, singing, sword fighting, eccentric juggling, contemporary dance and Caribbean choreography to the city.

Hat Fair began as a hatting event and is so called after the tradition of a ‘hatter’ or performer holding out a hat following their performance to collect donations from the audience. Each year the festival curates 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, festival favourites, Garaghty and Thom, will be back with more Streetcomedy to celebrate Hat Fair’s big birthday!

There will also be performances and walkabout shows by a range of other professional acts including several who return after delighting audiences in previous years – Fidget Feet will headline again this year with another aerial dance show, this time a circus and bingo-themed spectacle called House! While 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.

Performer at Hat Fair 2021

Hat Fair is also known for 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 showcasing outdoor work by students and recent graduates of the University of Winchester will return; 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.

If you are interested in getting involved with our festival and supporting Play to the Crowd, please get in touch with Becca, our Fundraising Manager, by emailing

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