A look back at 50 years of the Hat Fair in
Winchester

A look back at 50 years of the Hat Fair in Winchester

The tale begins in Covent Garden, London, where the first Hat Fair took place in 1973.

Just a year later – 50 years ago – the Hat Fair made its way to Winchester, organised by the same founder Jonathan Kay.

(Image: Echo)

That year also saw a Hat Fair in Covent Garden, but due to scheduling conflicts, it didn’t continue, leaving Winchester as the sole host.

Initially envisioned as a busking festival, the name “Hat Fair” comes from the tradition of performers collecting audience appreciation in hats.

Over time, the Hat Fair gained recognition and secured funding from regional arts bodies, local authorities, and sponsors. This allowed the festival to move beyond busking and feature a wider range of paid international performers alongside the “hatting” tradition.

(Image: Echo)

From its humble beginnings, the Hat Fair has grown into a four-day event, taking over Winchester’s city centre and attracting more than 40,000 visitors.

Founder Jonathan Kay remains actively involved as the Artistic Director even to this day.

The Hat Fair is a testament to the power of community involvement and the enduring appeal of street performance. It continues to transform Winchester’s streets into a vibrant stage for performers and audiences alike each and every year.

(Image: Echo)

These pictures were taken at the Hat Fair through the years.

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