HAT Fair 2017 will take place in Winchester from June 30 to July 2 the new Director announced at its official launch. There will be arts and entertainment all around the city centre on Friday and Saturday followed by an outdoor party at Oram’s Arbour on Sunday.

Speaking at the launch of the 43rd Hat Fair, Andrew Loretto said his first festival as Director will offer “a huge range from the epic to the intimate and for all ages.”

Stressing the importance of events like Hat Fair, he said: “Art and culture is not a luxury, it is a vital necessity for a healthy society.”

Among the highlights of over 40 acts and activities at 17 venues are Wired Aerial Theatre performing ‘To Me, To You…’, a ‘domestic’ scene on a giant rotating crane and ‘How I Hacked My Way Into Space’, the story of a man’s mission to set up an international space agency in his garden shed.

Andrew announced: “One of our headline shows this year is the world premiere of ‘Silence’ from the Polish company Teatr Biuro Podró?y. It’s a good example of how outdoor art can tackle important global issues. It takes place at the back of the Bus Station and will feature physical theatre, fire, puppetry, music in a show about refugees.”

He continued: “There’s a dance piece from Deaf Men Dancing called ‘Corazón a Corazón’. It marks the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales and fuses ground and aerial performance, tango and British Sign Language.”

“There are many opportunities for participation,” said Andrew. “For example, you can engage with life size arcade games in ‘The Actual Reality Arcade’ or help construct a giant straw-like structure in Stalker Teatro’s ‘Steli’ and then climb through it.” In ‘Table Manners’, people can also enjoy a feast while assumptions about polite dining are turned upside down around them or they can explore human wildlife in an ‘Urban Safari’.

“On the top of Chesil Street Car Park, you will be invited to join a young person who will reimagine the city in ‘Lookout’. In ‘Landed’, older performers and audience will share on a one-to-one basis reflections on love and life. Both of these events are free but you will need to book through Theatre Royal Winchester box office.”

Blue Apple Theatre, a Winchester-based company working with learning disabled actors, will be doing a piece specially devised for Parchment Street. On Sunday the People’s Stage features local acts as part of a giant picnic at Oram’s Arbour. “I am delighted we can showcase local companies and bring them to a new audience,” said Andrew.

As always, there will be traditional Hatters from all around the world including Felicity Footloose, Les Frères Troubouch, Quatuor Stomp and Fraser Hooper. Students from the University Of Winchester will take over The Brooks Shopping for a Fringe Festival. There will be a children’s area in the Cathedral grounds.

“Festival events are free which means we are constantly looking for ways to support Hat Fair from donations in a bucket to sponsors and funders,” said Andrew. In particular he appealed for volunteers to help make the festival happen.

He thanked Arts Council England, Winchester City Council, Without Walls and University Of Winchester for their support. He also praised the festival’s headline sponsor The Brooks Shopping and the many other sponsors including Hampshire Chronicle, Guildhall Winchester, Shentons Solicitors & Mediators and Winchester Science Centre & Planetarium.

Hat Fair is the UK’s oldest outdoor festival and attracts over 60,000 visitors to Winchester every year. It is part of Live Theatre Winchester Trust who also run Theatre Royal Winchester.

For more information about Hat Fair 2017, visit hatfair.co.uk.