A fervour has been building around Belfast in recent years as a must go place for anyone looking for a vibrant house and techno scene. The city’s rise to prominence has been attributed to many different things, but the biggest factors contributing to Belfast’s new found fame are undoubtedly the vision and self-belief currently permeating the scene and wider arts community. Nowhere has this vision and self-belief been more apparent than at this year’s AVA Festival.
Entering its fourth year, AVA 2018 was a shining example of what can be achieved when a festival has a clear sense of identity and purpose. Unlike anything else currently being put on in the UK or Ireland, AVA brings together artists, industry figures and enthusiastic crowds for two days of talks and music. That’s if you don’t include the opening night on Thursday, which saw both an opening show at the Bullitt Hotel as well as a screening of the one-take masterpiece Victoria at the Queen’s Film Theatre, or the closing party on Sunday evening, where Rush Hour Records label boss Antal treated those still standing to a three hour set at the Art Department.
As the festival’s unabbreviated name suggests, Audio Visual Arts is about so much more than music. It’s about bringing individuals together from within the arts world and nurturing the talent of up and coming artists in the community. With its geographical isolation, Belfast has always been a city that has had to rely on its own artists and there has a always been a sense of mentorship within the scene. However, AVA’s creator Sarah McBriar has taken this to the next level by not only fostering talent, through the emerging DJ, producer and visual artist programmes, but also by connecting those in Belfast to industry figures both on the mainland and south of the border.
With regards to the visual side of things, this year’s AVA see’s the festival partnering with both Red Bull and the Sasakawa Foundation. In collaboration with Red Bull, Belfast’s Guerrilla Shout collective created a fantastic installation that utilised the reflective qualities of light and provided a fitting visual backdrop to the Red Bull Music Stage. Also working with Red Bull were Belfast artists Paul Doran and Mark Ervine who created a beautiful mural using mixed media and collage. Finally, Japanese filmmaker Yu Nakajima’s ‘January 2015’ was exhibited with the help of the Sasakawa Foundation.
In a year when Belfast waves goodbye to the legendary Mandela Hall, home for many years to clubbing institution Shine, it seems fitting that AVA also moves on to newer pastures in 2018. No longer located at T13, gone are the iconic Harland and Wolff cranes Samson and Goliath, which for three years loomed high and mighty over the Boiler Room stage. However, if you thought that this meant a move away from the industrial atmosphere that has characterised AVA over the last three outings, you would be mistaken. The festival’s new home S13, a disused B&Q building located in a retail park in the south of the city, is a fitting location to continue to grow and expand AVA. From the Red Bull Music Stage being located in a loading bay to the incredible Main Stage space, the former DIY supply store provided the perfect setting for partygoers to enjoy the sights and sounds on offer at this year’s festival.
It was never going to be easy to choose, but here are our highlights from AVA 2018.