The hills that surround the Clanrye River are still. A magnificent building, built in 1212, stands tall, its empty corridors soaked in silence. The low grumble of basslines and the chatter of an ecstatic crowd grow ever louder. As we drive up the winding lane that leads to Narrow Water Castle, a wave of excitement washes over the entire bus.
This isn’t your average party venue.
Brought to my attention by Newry’s techno collective Clockwork, Narrow Water Castle has transformed from a piece of defensive architecture into one of the most beautiful venues around; the perfect place for AVA Festival to give us a little taste of what’s to come in June.
Master’s of the merging of local acts and internationally renowned names, AVA have invited Mister Saturday Night, Auntie Flo and Dystopian’s Tijana T to dictate the noise, in addition to local names such as Conor Hairding, Inside Moves DJs and last year’s Emerging Producer winner Quinton Campbell.
Split into two stages, AVA’s Castle Party opens the door for two entirely different universes. Enter the basement, with its stone walls and long, narrow dungeon, it serves as an oxymoronic world of past and present. Kick drums and spellbinding euphoria bounce off the walls as Hairding, Campbell, Clockwork, Sage, Mode_1 and Tijana T distribute their fire selections upon a rowdy and welcoming crowd.
Campbell, for me, delivers the best set of the day. Incorporating hypnotising melodic atmospherics with heavy rhythms, Campbell illustrates that he is as fine a selector as he is a producer.
Venture outside and you are met with the Outdoor Stage. Here the sounds of Inside Moves, Auntie Flo, Mister Saturday Night and Phil Mellon can be heard, each providing their own element of distinctive grooves through waves of satisfaction. A real festival atmosphere is present here; people all shapes and sizes dotted around the gardens of Narrow Water, smoking cigarettes, drinking beers and soaking up the immense building that stands before them – there’s something beautiful about being able to detach yourself from the euphoria, just for a second, to take in the delicately elegant landscape that surrounds you.
We all know that AVA is a real community fair, and that’s what makes it so appealing. The togetherness that is found at each of their projects is unrivalled; creating a sense of belonging in a world where, unfortunately, discrimination seems to almost come naturally.
The culture to which it contributes gives me hope that one day those that rule will identity these types of parties as having some sort of cultural value. Until then, let’s dance right up to June 2nd.
Photo by Luke Joyce.