THE historic heart of Basingstoke will be invaded by an 18 foot tall fire and smoke breathing dragon on Friday to launch this year’s Basingstoke Festival.

The dragon will be accompanied by the infectious dance beat of steel drums and percussion by the dragon’s handlers and will be joined for the launch by Basingstoke’s own North Hampshire Academy of Dance who will be performing a specially-choreographed piece.

The third Basingstoke Festival will run from June 20 to July 13, with more than 100 events and performances jammed into the programme.

To kick start the festival, visitors to Basingstoke's Top of The Town on Friday will be able to witness Dragon Heart Beat's dragon procession heading up Wote Street at 12.45pm.

It will arrive outside the Willis Museum in the newly refurbished Market Place for a 1pm performance of approximately 20 minutes with a repeat showing at 5.30pm.

The dragon’s drummers with the dragon’s head and dancers will return to Basingstoke Festival's family weekend at Top of The Town on June 29 with a midday performance and a finale piece at the end of the day.

Festival Co-ordinator Julia Tymukas said: "The third Basingstoke Festival will be the biggest and most colourful yet. Our programme is packed full of shows, exhibitions and events that will appeal to all ages and all tastes.

“This year we've increased the number of free town centre events, so we are urging people to come along to the Top of The Town on Friday to get a flavour of the festivities and pick up a copy of the programme."

For more information about the festival see