Alternative Moods

For those searching for a cultural experience set apart from the mainstream, this year’s Abandon Normal Devices Festival has a rich and complex bounty on offer. As the title suggests, this biennial mix of cinema, digital culture and art is for those seeking out new and innovative means of expression. From geological installations to subterranean performances, it’s the chance to be immersed in an entirely unique universe.

Running across four days in late September, the setting is the majestic Peak District National Park, a new destination for AND. Taking over the Derbyshire village of Castleton, and its surrounding peaks and caverns, the festival brings together musicians, artists, designers and producers to conjure up a series of thought-provoking works that reflect on the world around us.

Featuring installations, exhibitions, screenings and field trips, the programme is divided into five sections: Strata, Dislocation, Listening To The Dark, Deep Time and Freefall. Highlights include Waterlicht, a breathtaking digital installation by Dutch Designer, Daan Roosegaarde and Studio Roosegaarde, that will flood the v-shaped Winnats Pass with light to reveal the geological and glacial histories of the valley.

With this year’s festival set to explore the verticality of the planet, from a drone’s eye view to the layers beneath, one of the most intriguing viewpoints is by artist Steve Maher, who brings the latest iteration of his work Heavy Metal Detector to Castleton. Using customised metal detectors, participants can join Maher on tours around the site. Every time a piece of metal is found, a piece of hard rock or heavy metal music will play from locally sourced artists.

Below ground, events are just as intriguing. In Treak Cliff Cavern, Digital Dark Ages is an exhibition featuring works from such artists as Jamie Allen, Charlotte Jarvis and Nora Al-Badri that all probe the ideas of preserving our digital lives for future generations. Meanwhile in the bunkers of Peak Cavern, Listening To The Dark is an underground tour – a series of sonic experiments from artists as diverse as Beatrice Dillon to the Indonesian-born Ikbal Simamora Lubys and Tony Maryana.

With certain events needing to be booked in advance, due to limited space, those thinking of going are advised to plan ahead. The AND website also suggests participants: “Bring good footwear, an open mind and prepare for a journey into the centre of the earth.” It’s a good starting point for what will clearly be an unforgettable experience.

Abandon Normal Devices Festival runs from 21 September to 24 September. Visit for full details.

James Mottram

1. Jerusalem Pink, Dir. Maeve Brennan.