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Hat Fair

Posted on June 25, 2013


jolivyannsquareWinchester’s Hat Fair, the UK’s longest-running celebration of street arts and theatre, returns from July 5 to 7. This year’s programme includes urban dancers Bad Taste Company, Joli Vyann (pictured), Belgian trapeze artists Collectif Malunés and Irish company Pony Dance, alongside street acts, a bustling market and the EU-funded La Fête Franglais.


Named for the tradition of throwing payment into street performers’ upturned hats, Winchester’s Hat Fair was founded as a buskers’ festival in 1974. On Friday, July 5 and Saturday 6, performers take over the city, from Cathedral Close and the Theatre Royal to the terrace outside the city’s Law Courts. On Sunday, there’s a more relaxed programme in a park outside the city centre, where families can picnic. There’s also the Hidden Hat Fair strand, offering intimate ticketed shows in unexpected locations alongside the free outdoor performances.


There’s plenty of dance, circus and physical theatre among this year’s acts. Joli Vyann’s H2H (short for “Hand to Hand”) is about physical and emotional support, exploring the fragility of human relationships. Bad Taste Company’s Faust shifts the traditional story to the Prohibition era of the 1920s, a world of speakeasies, gambling and debauchery, with a mix of breakdancing and physical theatre. Candoco Dance Company’s Studies For C explores two characters in limbo, with Mexican wrestling masks, Lila Downs songs and dark humour.


Collectif Malunés present a world of blushing caravans and trapeze as a way of swinging sorrow away. Derek McAlister’s Twin Tango mixes Chinese pole acrobatics, audience participation, nerdy dancing and a love story, while the dancers of Motionhouse perform Captive inside a giant cage.


Ponydance’s Where Did It All Go Right? is a comedy of manners for four people stuck in a bar, trying to get out of it, with pub settings and garish music. Etta Ermini Dance Theatre perform Picnic, an outdoor physical theatre piece in which a young couple’s joyful picnic is disrupted by the quirks of their own relationship.


For the full programme, including show times, see



Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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