IT was a carnival conga to remember for parents and children as a colourful parade kicked off this year's Hat Fair.

More than 300 children danced, chanted and whistled through Winchester in the sun on Friday. Tens of thousands came to the city centre over the weekend to enjoy off-beat costumes and street theatre.

The children, from 10 local primary schools, marched handmade birds from Abbey Gardens to Winchester Cathedral in the midday sun, led by a brass ensemble from Henry Beaufort and Westgate Schools.

"Look how much fun they're having," said Liz Veal, of West Hill Drive, whose daughter Annabel was representing Western Primary School at the parade. "It's a fantastic day and it's such a fun event for the kids. Especially the birds – they must have had so much fun making them."

Elsewhere, revellers enjoyed crazy golf, comedy, live music, sideshows and jugglers as part of a packed programme spanning the city centre.

The festival, famous for its surreal street performances since 1974, is Britain's longest-running street theatre festival.

Buses were diverted from Silver Hill and Middle Brook Street as Winchester's High Street market was moved to make room for performers.

The weekend programme includes Winchester Poetry Festival, 'The Most Dangerous Cup of Tea in the World' and Blanko, a walking blank canvas waiting to be painted by festivalgoers.

Shows and activities are on from 8am until 10pm. The programme is online at