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Hat Fair 2023 will go ahead!

We’re thrilled to announce that Hat Fair 2023 will go ahead albeit in a smaller way.

We learnt in November that we would no longer be funded by Arts Council England (ACE) as a National Portfolio Organisation (NPO), despite a glowing assessment of our application. This regular yearly grant was a key part of the funding mix of the world-renowned Outdoor Arts festival. Since receiving the news from ACE, we have been looking for alternative sources of funding. We have been successful in our application for the ACE's transition funding which was available to organisations leaving the NPO. This allowed the us to honour some costs already committed for this year's festival and fundraising support to pivot to a new model for future festivals. We were also successful in our applications for a National Lottery Project Grant and to Hampshire County Council's Leaders Fund. Together with support from Without Walls, Culture Ireland, University of Winchester, Winchester BID and Winchester City Council and the Shared Prosperity Fund, we have raised enough for this year's festival to go ahead.

"We are delighted that a Hat Fair festival will go on this year. Full credit to Andrew and his team in programming a great festival in such challenging circumstances."

Deryck Newland, Chief Executive of Play to the Crowd

Due to the reduced funding, the festival will take place over two days this year on Friday 30 June and Saturday 1 July. There will be no Hat Fair performances on Sunday. This decision allows the Hat Fair Carnival - a culmination of a 9 month long project which features hundreds of school children and community groups from around Hampshire - to go ahead as planned on the Friday to open the festival. This community engagement project, led by Playmakers, was well underway before the news of the ACE funding decision so it was important to retain the Friday. The Hat Fair festival site will also be smaller than in previous years focusing around the High Street, The Square, Cathedral Grounds, Abbey Gardens and at the back of the Bus Station in Busket Yard.

Andrew Loretto, Hat Fair and Playmakers Director, comments "We can’t wait to bring joy to the streets of Winchester again this summer. Our sincerest thanks to those who have come forward to support the festival this year.  The footprint of the festival may be smaller but we haven't compromised on the quality or range of the artists performing.  This year's festival is packed full of Winchester's favourite hatters, a fantastic programme of commissioned works, as well as some incredibly talented local performers - there will be something for everyone to enjoy! Details of the programme will be released soon so do keep an eye out on the website and put Friday 30 June and Saturday 1 July firmly in your diaries.  We are disappointed that we couldn't extend the festival activities to the Sunday this year but the funding simply couldn't stretch that far. Our Hat Fair Carnival project was well underway and we couldn't disappoint the schools, teachers and community groups that had already invested so much time and energy in this project."

Deryck Newland, Chief Executive of Play to the Crowd, comments "We are delighted that a Hat Fair festival will go on this year. Full credit to Andrew and his team in programming a great festival in such challenging circumstances.  However, looking beyond Hat Fair 2023 and without regular on-going funding from Arts Council England, putting on an annual, largely free festival becomes extremely challenging - but we are determined not to be defeated and will explore every option available to us. Hat Fair turns 50 next year and we hope we can celebrate in style. If you or your business are interested and able to support Hat Fair going forward then please do get in touch."

Hat Fair is the UK’s longest running Outdoor Arts Festival and attracts audiences of up to 90,000 to Winchester every year. The family-friendly festival features street performance and Outdoor Arts from around the world, as well as providing a platform for local and community artists.

Hat Fair 2023 will take place Fri 30 June - Sat 1 July 2023.