Hat Fair 2015

Every year, for one weekend, the ancient city of Winchester is thrown into a whirlpool of absurdity as the Hat Fair descends upon us. Contrary to what you might think, the Hat Fair is not a festival of hats – although in this heat, hats are recommended…especially for those of us with less hair than most.

Rather, the Hat Fair was named for the tradition of audiences putting money into hats at the end of a street performance. The festival was first conceived as a busking festival, you see, but has gone on to become the longest-running festival of outdoor arts in the UK. Now, in its 41st year, the Hat Fair is bigger and, we’re sure, better than ever before.


Michelle Walker, the wonderfully engaging Artistic Director of the Hat Fair, recently explained, “I think the best word to describe the festival this year is ‘playful’: the programme is our invitation to you to join us in the streets and come out to play. Hundreds of people will be swing-dancing the city into life at 12 noon on Saturday; the very best street performers from all over the world will be astonishing you with their theatrics; an imaginative selection of walkabout acts will be popping up on every corner; and each evening will finish with some high octane performances by really exciting artists.”

And with well over 200 shows and activities, Winchester really does come to life during Hat Fair weekend. We love the buzz in the air and the licence to shake off everyday toils to just relax and have fun, laughing along with the crowds at things, quite frankly, you never thought you’d witness in a quaint cathedral city. It just goes to remind us that despite the conservative nature of the city, there is a real appetite for the quirky. Perhaps this is why we feel so at home here!

If you are able to visit Winchester this weekend then we’d recommend visiting the Hat Fair website for travel information and a full programme of events. There’s even a handy app to download so you can plan what to see when.

As I sit here typing away, I can hear the cheers of the crowds drifting across the rooftops from the Cathedral’s outer close. It’s enough to tear you away from what you’re doing, put on a funky hat and go out exploring.

Here’s a little look at what tickles our fancy…

Cabinet Rooms’ Agenda

Ear Trumpet

Credit: Gobbledegook Theatre, hatfair.co.uk

Ear Trumpet, Pilgrims’ School Lawn

This is a piece about listening”. We’re told that there are sounds bubbling up from under the ground in Winchester and that if you ask nicely you can use a highly-scientific ear trumpet to tune into these “exceptionally auditory occurrences”. Well we never…!

Spinney Hollow & Wren and Bee, Outer Close on Saturday and Oram’s Arbour on Sunday

Nestled in the shade of the trees in the Cathedral’s Outer Close is a delightful little area offering hand-crafted willow head-dresses (from Wren and Bee) and wooden swords and wands (from Spinney Hollow) for boys and girls of all ages. Now, we may have been influenced by Faerie Magazine, for whom we recently wrote an article about Nightcaps, but we felt there was something truly magical about this little corner of Winchester. Please do go and visit. And if you get a wand made for yourself, tweet us a picture @cabinetrooms!

Track, Inner Close and North Walls Recreation Ground

Here’s an interesting installation by artist Graeme Miller that will literally give you a completely different perspective of the city. Let go of your inhibitions and give yourself up to the experience as you allow yourself to be pushed along a track. We particularly like the thought of being swept through the flying buttresses of the Cathedral. Perhaps with Spinney Hollow wand in hand…


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