THE future of Winchester’s street festival has been secured for another three years.

As the Hat Fair rolls into town this weekend its organisers Winchester Theatre Royal learned it will receive £400,000 in Arts Council funding for the event between 2015 and 2018.

Theatre Royal director Mark Courtice called the grant a vote of confidence in the festival, which attracts 40,000 people a year.

He said: “We are absolutely delighted. It is a vote of confidence in our ability to run Hat Fair and secures its future. We have invested a lot of time and effort in something we care very much about and it is a really good feeling that we are going to be able to carry on running this festival.”

The theatre took over management of the Hat Fair in February 2013 after months of negotiations, pledging to keep it on the streets of Winchester after the festival suffered a heavy financial blow in 2012 due to bad weather.

The money is split into around £130,000 per year and can only be used for the festival, which brings a variety of street theatre, comedy, dance and more.

Theatre Royal will receive the same amount in grants as it has the previous two years and Mr Courtice said the security of funding meant they could plan for bigger and better attractions.

He said: “The thing about having a grant organised in advance is that it means we can plan and develop all the things we want to do and the possibilities that funding opens up are very exciting.

“It means we can just get on with planning rather than worrying about where the money will come from.”

This year’s event, which has a South American theme, begins tomorrow (FRI) and involves a record 45 companies, with 12 new commissions and four UK premieres.

Arts Council England has distributed £6.7m to 12 Hampshire organisations, including The Point Theatre in Eastleigh and Southampton’s John Hansard Gallery and the Turner Sims concert hall.