Techno music festival held in 550-year-old château

The festival, which focuses on techno music, saw 4 000 revellers descend on the château

A techno music festival has been held in the heart of a medieval French château for the first time in both the festival and the château’s history.

The château, known as the fortress of Ainay-le-Vieil, in the Cher district, has been owned by the family of baron Auguste d’Aligny for 550 years across 19 generations. It already attracts over 20,000 tourists per year, but is constantly in need of investment and updates.

Money raised by the leasing of parts of the ground and buildings to the fourth annual Château Perché festival, which took place from Friday August 4 to Sunday August 6, will now help the baron make long-awaited improvements and repairs to the château.

The festival, which focuses on techno music, saw 4 000 revellers descend on the property, each paying between €60 and €80 per ticket, and the large space allowed organisers to offer an unprecedented number of stages this year - seven rather than the five from the year before.

The site played host to over 180 DJs and musicians.

The festival was created by Samy El Moudni from Clermont-Ferrand, who, while studying economics in Berlin, had the idea to bring the spirit of a Berlin music festival back to France.

It takes place in a different place every year, and has previously been held in private properties in Puy-de-Dôme (Chazeron, Ravel) and Allier (Busset), but this is the first time it has taken place in a genuine château.

Owners Auguste and his wife Martine were in favour of the idea fairly quickly, due in part to encouragement from their adult children, but the decision also required approval from Auguste’s sister, Madame de la Tour d’Avergne, who takes responsibility for the château’s ancient rose gardens and grounds.

Eventually, over seven hectares of the grounds, and part of the château itself, were barred from public access during the festival - although the “Archers Hall” was transformed into a dance floor - and anti-fire measures were put in place throughout.

The family also had to get approval from the Cher préfecture, which ended up offering 120 gendarmes to protect both the festival-goers and the property during the event.

The 190 residents of the local commune were invited to attend the event for free, as a show of goodwill and thanks for the disruption caused to them, while local wine, pasta and potato producers were also invited to showcase their products.

“We were relatively quick to say yes,” explained Auguste d’Aligny to French newspaper Le Monde. “Getting the whole family to accept was a bit slower, and convincing the local authorities - the prefecture, the gendarmerie, neighbouring communes - was slower still.

“But we think these events bring fame to the chateau and to the village, and it’s a way of bringing new life to the area.”

“I fell in love with the local techno scene [in Berlin],” explained festival founder El Moudni. “When I came back to France, I thought it would be great to bring that spirit of sharing, joy, and tolerance to the typical symbols of the Auvergne, which is known for old volcanoes and châteaux. I chose to focus on châteaux.”

The château is now set to host more festivals and events, including a number of classical concerts in August, and a public festival-style candlelit dinner in the main courtyard.

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