Posts Tagged 'hampshire'

Awesome Weekend: Sunday

Pictures from the Hat Fair 2008

Pictures from the Hat Fair 2008

Sunday was the last (and best in my opinion) day of the Hat Fair. The Hat Fair is a festival of street performance that takes place in Winchester every year on the first weekend in July. Friday and Saturday there are performances and stalls in Winchester town centre, but on the Sunday the fair heads up to Oram’s Arbour, a big wedge shaped grassy park up the hill from the station.

We arrived at Oram’s Arbour in the drizzly rain at about half twelve – which was when the first act was scheduled for. Nothing was happening, and I was quite worried that the whole thing would be a let down with none of the performers wishing to risk their lives in death defying stunts on sodden, wet, slippery grass. However we’d barely stepped on to the field before the sun came out and by the time we had walked to the ice cream van it was so sunny that there was no excuse but to have an ice cream.

With the sun out the organisers leaped into action setting up pitches, amps and speakers. I had just enough time for another ice cream before the first act started. The first act was Bill Ferguson, who spent quite a while gathering his crowd with a combination of pointed comments at passers-by and hostage taking of gullible people’s possessions. It felt like he had the biggest crowd of all the acts I saw, even though it was still early in the day and there weren’t that many people yet – then again he did have no competition from other pitches. The climax of his act was juggling a pram, a crutch and a fold-up stool, which was pretty impressive.

Next act we saw was Shep Huntley, whose impact was lessened by the fact that we’d seen him last year. The first half of his act was pretty much identical to last time. But last year (as far as I recall) he ended by laying on a bed of nails, this year he climbed up a 3 metre pole and juggled knives and ate an apple at the same time.

Mr. Spin was the third act we watched. He was another who we had seen last year, though last year he was performing with Pandora Pink. Again I think he was better last year – mostly because he let her do all of the talking and patter. He was the most technically skilled performer I saw (I missed out on Haggis and Charlie this year), with a higher trick to patter ratio than the others. But the patter he did have got old very quickly – there’s only a certain amount of times a man can giggle manically and scream out “rock ‘n’ roll” and have it be funny.

Next was a magician – Andrew Elliot. He was really good. Normally I’m a complete old cynic with magic (having read too much on the subject for my own good) but his show had quite a few moments that took me by surprise. I was very busy thinking “Ha! I saw where those oranges came from.” when I got surprised with a “Where on earth did that watermelon come from?!?”.

Last of the day was Famos Bramwells. He was the act I was least blown away by. Granted he had it tough being the last act, he was following a magician who had a lot of good tricks with his act that contained two easily explicable tricks, and I was mainly there to be impressed by jugglers rather than by magicians. But still he was my least favourite act.

For overall performance I’d have to say I liked Bill Ferguson best, and for coolness of skills Mr. Spin.

Another Hat Fair has come and gone, and I can hardly wait until next year. Though one thing’s for sure – next year I’ll have to have a better camera. The three shots at the top were some of the best my little compact could manage. I’m definitely going to have to buy a digital SLR in the near future (or at least drop weighty hints to my loved ones in November/December time).

Awesome Weekend: Friday and Saturday


Dan and I both had Friday last week off so we decided to go to Festival Place in Basingstoke and see Hancock. We hadn’t realised, but it was the first weekend of the Hampshire Food Festival. We walked into the square to see stalls of local produce and Ainsley Harriott doing a cooking demonstration.

Ainsley doing a cooking demonstration in Basingstoke

Ainsley doing a cooking demonstration in Basingstoke

We didn’t watch all of his demonstration, but from where we were, eating lunch in La Tasca, we could hear most of it. It was an energetic show – Ainsley was bounding around the stage doing his thing, and when there was a wait or break in the kitchen activity there was singing along to upbeat music and people in the crowd getting fed.

The food festival is going on for the rest of July. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it to a few more of the events. There are quite a few chocolate making workshops that look tempting. Also the Winchester Farmers’ Market might be augmented with additional Festival festivities.


On Saturday IBM were celebrating 50 years at Hursley Park. They celebrated by putting on a bit of a festival in the house and grounds. It was very much a family event with face painting, inflatable fun and parachuting teddybears (courtesy of the Solent Kite Flyers) for the kids. There was quite a bit for the grown-ups too: a few charities had stalls on the lawn, several local businesses were showcasing their wares in the house, and there was dancing in the clubhouse.

I managed to coerce Dan into taking part in two jive workshops with me. That was fun – I think we both have equal quantities of left foot. Depressingly another couple who we’re friends with turned up for only the second workshop and were almost instantly better than us. In fact Dan did a whole lot of getting involved on Saturday, he got pulled out of the crowd to help chain up the magician:

The highlight of the Hursley 50th was to be a flyby by a Spitfire. The designers of the Spitfire were housed at Hursley Park for part of the war. We had an awesome Spitfire flyby a while back (December 2006) when one of the Spitfire design team passed away – it seemed like the plane was barely skimming the trees that time and some of the loop the loops were almost overhead. Saturday’s flyby was pretty cool, but I didn’t feel quite as much wonder this time. The show was off to one side and the view was blocked by trees from where we were standing, which didn’t help. But I don’t think this pilot was going for it quite as much.

Later in the evening there was to be a concert by a Southampton Orchestra, but a turn in the weather and a gap in the programming caused us to adjourn back to Eastleigh for Doctor Who and pub.

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