Meet Santa, get a tattoo, sing karaoke in a caravan, and maybe see Hozier play a secret gig. It’s all happening down at Electric Picnic in Stradbally, Co Laois.
More than 50,000 people, from the four corners of Ireland, headed for the Midlands yesterday to hear The Prodigy play (Sunday night), watch Blindboy Boatclub record one of his viral podcasts (today), and see comedian Tara Flynn perform her show, Not a Funny Word (also today).
In this temporary three-day city, where you must pack out what you pack in, there is literally nothing that has not been imagined and manifested into reality.
While the grey skies threatened Stradbally last night, punters arrived with the slabs of beer, glittered faces and sleeping bags.
It was like a microcosm of Irish life, with even homelessness, sexual consent, and composting getting a look in.
At each of the entrances, you can exchange your glass bottles of spirits or wine for plastic bottles, all for a donation of €2 to the local St Vincent de Paul branch at Stradbally. By 7pm last night, several large recycling bins were full with glass and the donation buckets were chiming with change. No glass bottles are allowed inside the event, though revellers try their best, but are searched on entry.
Once you get past security, there is the challenge of finding your way to a camp site, through the thick human traffic. Festival-goers were laden down with tents, yoga mats and their food supplies, often using vertical, vintage shopping trollies to lug their possessions to their temporary homes.
Also, in exchange for another donation, Just Eat was sponsoring Picnic Porters, who pushed punters’ gear in wheelbarrows to their tents, with all monies going to the Peter McVerry Trust.
This year’s festival also aims to put the other social issue of the environment firmly on the agenda, with ‘green messengers’ roaming the camp sites informing the crowd about all of the recycling bins around the entire venue. There is even a 20c plastic cup refund programme running in this weekend.
Friends of the Earth is operating three deposit and return stations for plastic cups and bottles in the arena. Festivalgoers pay the 20c deposit on every drink they purchase from the bars and that money is refunded to anyone who brings empty cups or plastic bottles to the cup deposit stations.
Last year, 265,000 cups were returned.
If the festival, that heralds the end of the summer, was representative of Ireland of 2018, then everything got a look in, including a caravan transformed into a Pope-mobile covered in Vatican flags. There was also a large art installation attached to a tree on the way to the main stage, with the words ‘I believe her’ hanging from it, referring to a hashtag that went viral after the Belfast rape trial earlier this year.
The HSE are also on site handing out condoms and lubricant to launch their new social media safer sex campaign, with the tag line #respectprotect.
The campaign will actively encourage people who are thinking of having sex or are sexually active, to think ahead, access correct information and to practice safer sex.
All that serious stuff aside, revellers are spoiled for choice with dozens upon dozens of acts performing over the weekend, from dance to folk, and from rock to electric, with Massive
Attack headlining tonight and The Prodigy tomorrow night.
And if music isn’t your thing, you could easily spend the weekend in Stradbally without hearing a single note, with a host of podcasts, talks, plays, and yoga classes to attend.