Ahead of AVA’s second edition in London, Timmy Stewart tells us about his favourite spots in his local town of Belfast, home of the original AVA Festival.
The epitome of a local legend, Timmy Stewart has been a key player in Belfast’s underground dance music scene for years. As comfortable playing a cosmic chugging set inspired by the late (great) Andy Weatherall as he is riling up the raucous Boiler Room crowd at AVA with thumping house and techno cuts, Stewart produces under a handful of different monikers to make space for the breadth of his taste, including T-Bone and Black Bones.
He’s held down a residency at local party The Night Institute and Shine – a Belfast institution, founded a string of local parties including Digital Boogie, Tsunami and Island Hopper, and remixed artists as varied as Weatherall to Xpress 2.
On Friday 13th and Saturday 14th March, AVA come from Belfast to London to takeover Printworks for two days of panels, talks and a club night featuring Orbital, Joy Orbison, Peach, Sally C and Peach.
As AVA prepare for their second adventure in London, we asked Timmy to highlight some of his favourite spots in Belfast. Here Timmy tells us where he likes to eat, drink, dance and sleep in the city, as well as his tips on what to see and do. Check out his recommendations below:
THE MUDDLERS CLUB
This is my favourite special place to eat in the city. It’s by no means a cheap night out, so it’s a proper treat I like to do a handful of times a year. It’s actually nice to limit the trips, so you don’t take the amazing food, drinks and surroundings for granted. It’s based in one of the most historical parts of Belfast and the name comes from the secret United Irishmen group that met there during the 1790’s. The last time my wife and I were there, Charlie Lawson (Jim from Coronation Street) was getting properly excited about the experience. I guess it was his first time!
ASIA SUPERMARKET CAFÉ
Currently my favourite place for daytime eating. My advice, park your car on the Ormeau Road side of Ormeau Park and stroll at your leisure through the park towards this great place for lunch (they do a mean breakfast too). The menu is always full of freshly made delights such as chicken curry pie or a similarly Asian slant on other Northern Irish favourites. After lunch, hit the supermarket on the ground floor get some of their dumplings to take home and Pejoy vanilla chocolate sticks for the walk back to your car.
ULSTER SPORTS CLUB
For a walk in, off the street pint or somewhere to take visiting friends, the Ulster Sports Club is the new jewel in the city centre. A frozen in time, 70s Belfast interior, tardis of multiple rooms with the best beers on draft and music policy, it’s currently proving hard to beat. It also has an amazing club room on the top floor, I’ve never had a bad night playing on their sound system to be honest.
LOVE & DEATH
Another place where I always have a great night. Head up the narrow stairwell to a first floor cocktail bar for great innovative drinks at reasonable prices. Above that is the intimate music hall, another venue with a sound system bigger than the capacity. Go in here day or night and I guarantee you will lose track of time and not regret it.
This was a hotel that was missing, in my opinion. It’s got a vibe and feel like hotels I’ve enjoyed in Dublin, and later realised our own city didn’t really have anything similar. If friends are looking for recommendations this is the one I always get them to check for availability. It’s right in the centre of the city so perfect for a shopping or food and drink-based short break.
THE EUROPA HOTEL
You can also stay in what Billy Connolly boasted was the most bombed hotel in the world. It’s a proper place of history and it gave two fingers to Belfast’s troubled past by standing tall throughout the barrage. Rest assured, the only thing that might wake you from your sleep these days, is someone abseiling past your window!
Biased I know, but the Ballyhackamore Socials have really brought a smile to my face these past nine months. There is something beautifully DIY about putting a huge sound system in an old social club with an incredible dance floor and £3 pints. I had a lovely moment in January past when I played The Cure’s ‘A Forest‘ as the lights came up and everyone in the room was singing their hearts out to it. I’ve regularly seen people leave blissfully unaware their jacket was on inside out.
Another of my favourite places to play at the minute. The has to be the best outdoor space in the city. I love getting to play a range of music to the next generation of club culture across the four hour set times here.
THE OH YEAH CENTRE’S NI MUSIC EXHIBITION
I love the place and this curated piece of history. From Noel & Maurice Watson’s personal memorabilia, from the birth of the rise of electro and house in London, to guitars and coats from NI rock legends, and a detailed time line that wraps the room with amazing facts. It’s a good start to understanding NI’s music history, and all for free too!
BELFAST STREET ART FOR FREE
Thankfully the city has become the most colourful of late. I regularly take little detours through the streets around the central library going back to my car after my radio shows, just to absorb and photograph any new pieces that may have appeared. Some of the humour in the art brings out a proper belly laugh at times.
Hidden away on the Castlereagh Road is this authentic French patisserie that serves amazing handmade treats. One of the city’s best DJs Chris Frieze also works here, so you can pick up your delicacies and get some tips for new music too. Double win.
A disused college building has been brought back to life of late and become a proper creative hub for musicians, film makers, photographers and more. Attend one of Studio 34’s film screening nights or Ayelands live music streams for good examples of what’s happening in the creative pulse of the city right now.