Hat Was Just Fantastic!
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Winchester Today’s Rachel Gover enjoys her first-ever Hat Fair – and takes some stunning pics of the weekend of fun!
From 1st – 3rd July, Winchester welcomed the Hat Fair to town, standing as the UK’s longest running festival of outdoor arts. Over 20 sites around the city centre hosted the stunning performances from around the world. Being my first Hat Fair, it was like being in a sweet shop. I’m 5 years old again; my nose barely touches the counter as I peer up to see the sweets along the wall, wondering what’s in each pot.
Pinks, greens, blues light up the sky, it’s euphoric and magical. Each pot is labelled – Barada Street, ManoAmano, Mr Vita – even one called Lords of Strut.
Taking the lid off, the excitement explodes onto the streets. I am not the only one in the sweet shop anymore, but thousands queue the streets to experience it also. We are spoilt for choice with utter brilliance.
It was the weekend of all things weird and wonderful to come together and celebrate, to dance in the rain together and have a jolly good ol’ knees up. Urban Astronauts flew through the sky, up the high street and through the Cathedral grounds, those braved to have their hair cut by 10 year olds on Colebrook Street and Lords of Strut, well, quite literally strutted their way to a stupendous round-of-applause; heard all across town.
Performers came together from across the world, and certainly put on a treat for Winchester to see.
Hidden within the bus station, incredible acrobatics were performed by Tipping Point.
Watching them throw each other in the air left those in the audience in silence. It was beautiful, sensitive and an honest performance. Wearing nothing but a blue t-shirt and gym trousers, messy hair and chalk to support their grip; Tipping Point were astounding, and effortlessly perfect.
In Abbey Gardens, Argentinian act ManoAmano flew with the greatest of ease as they humorously teased each other in their acrobatic performance. Their humorous engagement with the audience and hidden strength are key to such a successful show.
Les Dudes bounce off each other and their audience in an electric way. As they played with fire, cycled bikes upside down and supported a young child with their first ever back flip, it is an act that we could watch time and time again.
Hat Was Fantastic – We Were Allowed To Feel Like Kids Again
Australia’s finest street performer, Maple Staplegun, charmed the men in the audience to be her assistants for the show. As she flipped hula-hoops in the air, to Daryl Hall and John Oates – You make my Dreams Come True, we were allowed to feel like kids again.
Famous Seamus and Sean-tastic are the lovable Irish duo named Lords of Strut. And boy, do they. This was an act which will never become old. Who knew that, secretly, deep down we all love to watch two grown men strutting around in 80s tight, that’s very tight, disco gym wear; and we’re not ashamed to say so. Lords of Strut (Mmmm) had everyone up and joining in with their moves to Run DMC, comically strutting into an audience filled with belly laughter. Their expressionistic faces, unexpected acrobatic moves and natural ability to have us all in fits of laughter worked perfectly for this duo. Sean-tastic’s gleeful delight when he was allowed to play on the ladder was heart-warming, sparkly and an all round hilarious performance.
Lovable Mr Vita, from Spain, worked his charm with an entertaining striptease to ACDC’s TNT. Mr Vita’s act was not only charming and amusing, but the Spanish Rock’n’Roll juggler left us all with a strong, poignant message about the state of the world. As his confetti bomb exploded with the finale of his show, he wished that all those in the world could be this way.
Barada Street were charming, comical gentlemen to watch and engage with after their performance. The pair is a perfect duo act together. One tall English man paired with a very strong man from Kyrgyzstan shouldn’t work, but as they perform in great harmony, it wonderfully does. Friday evening, Barada Street brought a sense of happiness and freedom as we danced in the rain with them. As Juri elegantly spun his ukulele playing Englishman, Richard, in the air it is safe to say that we will all have that jingle stuck in our head for days… Ba-da-dum-dum…
Incredible Edible set up in Abbey Gardens allowing those wondering around to see just how simply easy and amazing it is to grown your own produce. If you can grow it here, you can grow it anywhere is the golden rule. The stand was beautifully decorated with flowerpots, yoghurt pots, wellies, vintage lampshades – all bursting with fresh produce and colour.
Oram’s Arbour is the perfect venue for all acts to come together. Explore the trinket stalls, henna art, music and choirs. Clown around with those performing and enjoy the chaos all around.
Not just in Oram’s Arbour – hidden gems included the Tea Party on Parchment Street and the street pianos placed all around town. All around, contortionists and acrobatics moved in such a way, almost euphoric, it surely inspired those to go home and have a practice that evening.
The Hat Fair is a free event every year and continues on with success and joy. But until next year, we return to normality and the sweet shop is now closed.