Boho, Beautiful and Unashamedly Bourgeois: Is UVA 2017’s Coolest New Festival?

your mate threw a house party. Except, rather than a
East London
flat, their house is a 15th-century monastery
surrounded by vineyards in the heart of the
countryside, just on the outskirts of
. And, instead of your usual party suspects (iPod control
freak, political bore, girl who’s your new best friend, boy chewing
his face off, etc.) the crowd is boho, beautiful and unashamedly
bourgeois – as the French would say, “bobo”. You can swap your
Stella for a sangria (ok, Fanta lemon and red
) too.

Welcome to UVA. The
love child of Moody
and Morning Fever, this 500-capacity music and
visual arts
which made its debut this year was “made for friends
by friends” and beckons guests to frolic in the foothills of the
Descalzos Viejos (“old barefoot mountains”) for three days of
sun-soaked hedonism.

While summer club bangers are no doubt pumping out along the
Malaga strip less than a two-hour drive away, this eclectic
gathering brings together 30 or so young artists and “music
diggers” laying down everything from “early jazz to afrobeat,
bossa-nova, funk, hip-hop, electronica, disco and house, and even
techno” to in-the-know Euro cool cats. Sound pretentious? Maybe,
but this grass-roots initiative feels remarkably un-sceney and
throughout the weekend you’ll bump into the same friendly faces
getting collectively giddy on summer dreams and cerveza. Best of
all, there’s not a flower crown in sight.

There’s also no camping – a relief given the 30-degree heat – so
get a room in town or round up the troops and rent an
nearby (for about €60 each a night you can get a pretty
decent finca-esque
pad). While the music kicks off in the afternoon, don’t miss
checking out Ronda’s many delights – getting your culture fix in
during the day will also help assuage any impending
I’m-just-here-to-party guilt. So head to the nearest heladería and
ask for “tres bochas” (three scoops) then wander through the
charming city with its picturesque plazas, white and yellow
buildings and historic bull ring (it’s said to be the birthplace of
the sport), stopping for a mandatory Instagram
in front of the vertiginous Del Tajo gorge, ice cream
melting down your arms in sticky streams.

And now it’s playtime. Before the sun begins to set, make your
way along a dusty dirt track, a 15-minute descent to the festival
site in Ronda’s bucolic basin, where you’ll be greeted like old
friends and promptly asked to sign a two-page disclaimer making
your (silly) self fully responsible if you get overexcited and
topple over the edge of something. For while the labyrinthine
paths, crumbling stairways and ivy-strewn terraces of the monastery
yield many a dark corner for doing dark deeds, they also mean it’s
pretty easy to stack it if you’re a bit pissed – and footloose and
not so fancy free is not something you want to be.

From then on in, the party is yours for the making. Stock up on
tokens for food and drink (surprisingly reasonable, a pint will set
you back just €1.50) then follow the smoky trail to the barbecue
for rustic burgers and chicken skewers – dodgy food vans are not a
thing here – eaten with your hands in the shade of a colourful
parasol, funky disco beats wafting overhead. Give your dancing fuel
a chance to digest by heading back to the entrance to perch on the
hilltop and watch the sun paint the sky a magnificent magenta-pink
before joining the steady stream of revellers snaking their way
down to the party as inky darkness sets the scene for a night full
of whimsy and weirdness.

You’ll lose the next five, six, eight hours flitting between an
expansive main area with sweeping views and the more clandestine
jungle stage, hidden in a clearing of trees and adorned with fairy
lights. Get down and dirty to the likes of Rush Hour’s Antal, Donna
Leake, Greg Beato and San Proper alongside bronzed girls in paisley
flares and crochet crop tops and chiselled boys in silky kimonos,
before regrouping in one of the monastery’s crumbling enclaves –
the heady soundtrack and naughty nymphs mean you’ll soon be under
UVA’s spell. But, like Cinderella at the ball, sunrise comes around
all too soon and that spell must be broken, with a wobbly journey
home to bed. But that was just your first night. You’ll be back
again tomorrow. See you there.

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