The sold-out Electric Picnic, which heralds the end of the summer and had Hozier play a surprise gig, came to an electrifying close last night with The Prodigy and their ‘Firestarter’.
This year’s festival in Stradbally, Co Laois, was a smorgasbord of culture, arts, and politics, with the topics of homelessness and human rights cropping up on several stages, and large crowds not confined to the music tents, with hundreds queuing to hear the likes of Blindboy Boatclub carry out his “political cabaret”.
The audience included Bono’s wife, Ali Hewson, who was there to see their son Eli perform with his band, Inhaler. The Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, Denis Nulty, also called looking for a ticket on Thursday, and spent Friday at the festival.
Best-selling author Marian Keyes was another draw to the non-music tents, where she chatted about her writing process, the recent referendum on the Eighth Amendment, and housing and homelessness.
In the new podcast tent, comedian Alison Spittle cracked sides as she interviewed Ireland’s best-known screenwriter, Sharon Horgan, who was home from London for the festival.
Back to music, there was everything from the major headliners such as The Prodigy, Kendrick Lamar, and N.E.R.D., to the Dublin Ukulele Collective and the Dublin Gospel Choir.
The Dublin Ukulele Collective’s set yesterday was representative of the festival’s vibe, with a five-year-old girl pulled from the chock-a-block crowd to lead a rendition of ‘Counting Stars’ with her tambourine.
Cork band the Frank & Walters also had a guest, when Young Offenders actor Shane Casey joined them for a rendition of ‘After All’.
The diverse crowd included all ages and nationalities, consuming everything from cocktails to beer and chai tea.
Overhead hung clothing lines of baby-grows, just one of the many art installations to be found around Stradbally. Others included bicycle wheels hanging from trees, as well as porch rocking-chairs.
The mix of age groups has always been a talking-point of Electric Picnic and this year was no different, with the sight of babies being pulled around in wooden carts becoming commonplace.
Also a common vision were the glitter-covered faces adorned with jewels and worn by men, women, boys, and girls alike.
Gender was another talking point yesterday, with Sara Phillips, chair of the Transgender Equality Network Ireland, discussing the use of pronouns and “them” and “they” when it comes to everyday conversations around trans rights.
She said it was important to give people breathing-space when it comes to trans and gender issues, as most people are trying their best but might not have the perfectly correct language with which to discuss the topic.
Face make-up aside, fashion was a sight to behold, with men’s suits made from anything and everything, including TV test-card print material, and a large percentage of the women wearing garments covered in sequins. Wellies were not a standout feature of this year’s festival, but the food was.
As ever at Electric Picnic, you could eat like royalty, with something to suit every palate, including hand-rolled ice-cream and chickpea burgers.
Next year’s tickets go on sale this Friday, and the plan is to keep the price the same, but perhaps increase the number available by about 2,500.