THE clown was most certainly in town as school children danced and sang their way through Winchester’s streets at the opening of the 40th annual Hat Fair.

Every year the festival sees 40,000 people flock to Winchester, bringing with it the glitterati of theatre, comedy, dance, music, artistic installations and stalls scattered about the city.

After a short launch at restaurant No5 Bridge Street, schoolchildren joined the School Parade, starting off at Abbey Gardens last Friday.

Holding brightly-coloured South American-themed decorations and banners high above their heads, including piñatas, chillies and sombreros, they danced, sang and whistled through the High Street towards the Cathedral’s Outer Close.

There was nothing short of smiling faces as people peered from cafes and shops to watch the 400-strong procession, complete with stilt walkers, pass.

Angelic voices filled the air with the official Hat Fair song — There’s a Clown in the Town – to officially launch the three days of celebrations.

Only three performances were cancelled due to bad weather on Friday, and festival director Kate Hazel said the UK’s longest-running street arts festival was an event the city should be proud of.

“I am so pleased that we are here and celebrating the 40th anniversary — it really is a milestone,” she said. “It has really built momentum. People understand us and want to be part of it. It’s an opportunity to come out and celebrate Winchester. I know it will still be going in another 40 years.”