A NEW documentary showing the Winchester Hat Fair is being released.

Street Life: A (hi)story of Hat Fair will come out officially this Wednesday, July 3.

Through archive material and interviews, the film traces the Hat Fair's journey from its original form as a small scale, improvised gathering to the huge festival it is today.

It also uncovers the early days of the Attic Theatre, whose members helped found the festival, giving an impression of the social climate of the time. 

READ MORE: Winchester’s Hat Fair celebrations for 50th anniversary

The audience at an old edition of the Hat Fair (Image: Laurent Metrich)

The film presents a different portrait of the Hat Fair today, its status as a charity, its links to UK outdoor arts and its financial difficulties. 

The Winchester Hat Fair is the longest running festival of street theatre in the UK. It started in 1974 and will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2024. 

SEE MORE: Winchester's Hat Fair outdoor arts festival calls for volunteers

The festival's name comes from the performers' habit of asking audience members to put donations in a hat.

Mime artist Jonathan Kay, who founded and directed the company, is accredited for the creation of Hat Fair.

Fire throwers at the Hat Fair (Image: Adrienne Photography)

From its early days the festival attracted street artists who performed at Covent Garden, London and gave them a platform to try out their new shows. 

Today, Jonathan Kay works as a performer and teacher, touring the world and teaching his technique of improvised theatre through workshops. 

The city council and local businesses initially opposed the Hat Fair but have since been won over, not least because the three-day event is big business: it attracts over 90,000 people each year.

Street Life aims to portray the spirit of the Hat Fair and the people who make it happen.

Director Laurent Metrich works with artists and communities and takes a particular interest in alternative movements and grassroots action.

His work consists of self-produced documentaries and commissions by artists or organisations.

Mr Metrich started experimenting with film fiction in 2008 after a film course at Morley College, London and later developed this activity into a part-time professional practice. 

Since 2018 he has made several short documentary films.

His 2019 film 'Lifeblood' was instrumental in focusing efforts to crowdfund for The Railway Inn music venue, Winchester.

It featured on a BBC Radio 6 show, a BBC Radio Solent programme and was shortlisted for the Winchester Film Festival.