Electronic music and arts conference AVA London returns to the capital this month in a new multi-day, multi-venue format. Following the closure of former host venue Printworks last year, the event will take place at venues such as KOKO, HERE at Outernet, The Standard and The British Library.

Brian Eno, United Visual Artists, Charlie XCX, Amy Lamé and more will feature as conference speakers, followed by a series of club show performances.

AVA founder and creative director Sarah McBriar, who is speaking at the Event Production Show earlier that week, tells Access about what to expect at this year’s event, which takes place from 29 February – 2 March. AVA Festival will then return to Belfast from 31 May – 1 June. 

What was the thinking behind the new multi-venue format?

We always had the intention of going in this direction. In terms of how we want to grow the event, we can build out working with more venues and partners, as well as being able to programme differently with all the new spaces we’ve got. All the spaces bring something unique to the event – this is hopefully the new format moving forward.

What are the main themes of the conference?

There are four main themes. We’ll be covering technology like AI and web3, future thinking with how the industry is going in terms of genres and we’ve got a strong community theme going throughout – that’s all the way from DIY to building your own community as an artist or promoter. Then we’ve got ‘pathways’ for both artist success and creative success.

We’ve got some major speakers this year. Charli XCX is doing a live RA Exchange, which is massive for us. There’s big news she’s going to share which I’m not allowed to talk about.

Brian [Eno] has pioneered so much in terms of genres and his career. We’re also working with our charity partner EarthPercent, looking at the impact the music industry has on climate change and what we can do as an industry and a movement.

Do you think the conversations around AI have been positive, or is there still a lot of scepticism?

I think with anything that comes with big change there will be scepticism. I think like everything there are pros and cons. If you think about the impact the internet has had on the world, it’s been incredible but there’s also been a lot of negatives. I think AI is going to be the same. There’s huge potential but also huge challenges. It’s a very interesting debate.

How will the theme of AV innovation be explored?

In terms of AV, a lot of artists now know their brand and their visual identity. That’s huge because of social media and how artists market themselves, but also how that shows up at festivals. A lot of touring artists now have AV operators that come on the road with them. That’s an exciting part of what we’re programming. We also have a keynote from United Visual Artists (UVA) who do the visual identity of Drumsheds and also did a massive show at 180 Studios. Laurent Garnier and Skepta’s manager Grace Ladoja are also two talks not to be missed.

The AVA London club performances feature artists including Marlon Hoffstadt AKA DJ Daddy Trance, DJ Boring, Or:La B2b Spray, Amaliah b2b Danielle, DJ AYA, Byron Yeates, Aika Mal, Sloucho (Live), with more to be announced.