10 of the Most Iconic AVA Moments of all Time

Words: Dylan Murphy
Image: AVA by The Hype Factory/Lewis McClay

In the past decade AVA Festival has become an institution of electronic music in Ireland. Continually evolving, it’s moved from a humble one day event made up entirely of Irish acts in T13 Warehouse to hosting over 10,000 people and the biggest names in dance music across a weekend in The Titanic Slipways.

BICEP, Jon Hopkins, Ben UFO, Mall Grab, KiNK, Or:la and more have all graced the stage at the festival since its inception – some of them multiple times. AVA has continued to grow without compromising its connection to grassroots culture in the north with acts like Sally C starting in small letters on the bill before playing the main stage in 2023. It’s a tried and tested pipeline for emerging talent and one that keeps local acts at the heart of what it does.

And who can forget the Boiler Rooms? Whether it’s Skin on Skin’s melding of drill vocals and techno during his set or Space Dimension Controller dropping ‘Ayla’, it’s further proof that Belfast has some of the best crowds in the world.

With this summer marking 10 years of AVA Festival, we spoke to the DJs, acts and people behind the scenes to talk about their most treasured memories ahead of what promises to be another bumper year.

Holly Lester 

Whilst having my boiler room debut in 2018 is gonna be forever up there in my favourite AVA memories and general life memories, I think I’ll also remember my first AVA set post-pandemic for a very long time. The energy was insane as soon as I walked into the Nomadic stage. I was feeling a bit nervous about returning there and feeling a bit out of practice, as I’d only done a few gigs prior to things reopening. But as soon as I started playing it was just magic. Everyone was just so elated to be there and to be partying together again. I could properly feel the joy from the crowd! Definitely  one of my favourite sets of recent years!

– Holly Lester Photo by @katedonaldsonphotography


Timmy Stewart

For me, a fave AVA highlight across the decade was the year I was asked to play an unannounced extra set on the Friday night at the Boucher Road site. I’m gonna say it was 2021?

It is always nice to play an extended set at a festival, with time to move around styles more. The stage just kept filling up and I loved the fact no one knew who was playing until they landed in, due to hearing what was pumping out. Literally the power of the music right there!

– Timmy Stewart by Rough Hands

Jordan Nocturne


Way too many memories from AVA Festival to sum up in just one text but a couple standouts include: KiNK performing at the S13 location and next thing you know a samba band appears, stole the show for me that year. That was also the year i was more involved in the production side of things as I did my uni placement at AVA. Went from assisting the production crew build up the Main stage to then playing the opening set at it. Another highlight, would have to be my first Boiler Room at the Boucher Road site in 2021. After the previous year cancelled due to covid, it was such a good homecoming and a moment i’ll cherish for ages!

– Kessler, Photo by @tellyourmumitookphotos


I mean, over the years there has been plenty of AVA memories. From Dave the rave Tester’s outfits, to having my ma behind the decks drinking my rider to playing Fern Kinney – ‘Love me Tonight’ as the sun was coming up at 8am at the unofficial crack on. One particular memory stands out when I was asked to do the Boiler Room and my best pal Evan was the host. I messaged him in advance to say no funny games when introducing me…out walks Julian Simmons to introduce me.

Emmett Costello (AVA Festival programmer)

Plain Sailing

One of our favourite memories was playing b2b with Bloom with EMBY. I think it might have been the first time the festival has introduced grime and hip hop into their programming and it felt like a major highlight for lots of different people. It’s also been great seeing EMBY smash it every year since playing with different crews too.