About Us

About Us

“the wonderful Winchester Hat Fair, a joyous weekend of street theatre and outdoor performance”
The Guardian, 2015

Hat Fair is the UK’s longest running festival of outdoor arts. Founded in 1974 by Jonathan Kay, Hat Fair inspires and is inspired by the people, heritage and public spaces within the city of Winchester.

Our aim is to shine a light on the city, transforming the everyday into the extraordinary.

Initially conceived as a busking festival, Hat Fair takes its name from the tradition of the audience showing their appreciation by putting money in the hat at the end of the show.

These days most of the festival’s artists are paid a fee to perform for free to our audiences. However, we still uphold the hatting tradition by inviting a dozen or so of the world’s best street performers to ‘hat’ at the festival each year – we offer a contribution to their travel costs and provide food and accommodation for them during the festival, but they are primarily paid through the generosity of our audiences.

In 2013 Hat Fair became part of Live Theatre Winchester Trust, which also runs the Theatre Royal Winchester. Bringing together a historic theatre and an outdoor arts programme in creative collaboration has allowed us to develop our artistic ambitions relishing the opportunities this presents for encouraging talent and championing quality arts.

With the introduction in 2015 of our new site-specific Christmas festival, Woolly Hat Fair, our vision now encompasses a year-round programme of cultural celebration around the city and beyond.