Stevie G: Positives messages from Electric Picnic

Cork based Artivists Creativity and Change collaborated with the Reclaim Project and the Dublin Ecofeminists plus Leargas Ireland, hosting a number of important conversations, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
Stevie G: Positives messages from Electric Picnic

Molly Jane Sterling of the Reclaim Project and Mary Crilly of Safe Giggs Ireland) during one of the discussion workshops at Electric Picnic.

Electric Picnic has annually been a huge end of summer party and at this year’s festival some late night showers told us that the days of heatwaves and sunny days are pretty much gone for now.

The weather was mostly good during the daytime, and Sunday was particularly warm and beautiful, but it came down heavy after midnight each night. The foreboding back to school feel of the festival didn’t prevent many thousands from having a blast, and the time away from it during the last few years gave many of us regulars pause for reflection.

By 2019, at the last festival, it had become a huge gathering, and one of the biggest festivals in Europe. I remember walking around that particular one thinking it’s gone a little too far into the commercial zone, where every little inch of the festival was sponsored and where the branding was too vulgar at times.

Vape tents with piped dance music that leaked into other areas made the central area a bit of a no-go spot for me, but my time away from it gave me a softer perspective this time.

Travelling with a group of young artists who had never been before helped, but this time, amid the corporate overload, there was a lot of signs that Electric Picnic can still play a positive role in not just music, but in other areas too.

I spent a lot of time in Global Green, where Cork based Artivists Creativity and Change collaborated with the Reclaim Project and the Dublin Ecofeminists plus Leargas Ireland, hosting a number of important conversations.

I took part in one of these myself, with Dola and Mary of Safe Gigs Ireland, joining us for a chat about their amazing first year at the big festivals. They have spoken to thousands of youngsters at these festivals, and the reception has been very positive.

In the week of more abuse allegations in the arts, we wondered loudly whether other industries would adapt such a relaxed approach to the abuse in the arts. The show must go on, is one of our industries mottos for many reasons, but we had a very interesting chat on why sometimes in music and the arts, such abuse exists.

We also spoke about spiking, and how we all need to be extra vigilant in the music industry. Safe Gigs are doing fantastic work, and as I left our chat, I couldn’t help but thinking that this chat was more in line with the original ethos of the festival I attended each year from the start in 2004.

The Creativity and Change and Reclaim Project crews did a fantastic job, and were one of many great groups doing things at the festival. Conversations are important, and the Electric Picnic was always intended to be much more than just a party.

You can do both side by side. The ecological impact of people leaving behind tents and stuff will always be highlighted by the media, and we all have a responsibility to clean up after ourselves. The festival wouldn’t happen without the big corporate sponsorship and some of them at least made the effort to take more responsibility too.

I gigged for Heineken in their green bar, which was created with reuse-led design values and promised a more sustainable festival experience with a 100% Irish line-up. This approach made a lot of sense for such a brand, and it was one of the festival’s best commercial areas.

The festival itself was way too vast for me to review, but my personal highlights were varied. I didn’t think I’d see both Little Simz and Megan the Stallion, but their performance times meant I got to see both, and they are two of my very favourites musically.

JyellowL was excellent as always, but one of my most uplifting moments was seeing our own Light Runners do their thing in Trenchtown. I was very tired at the time after my own three-hour show, and was ready to crash, but this was a great pick-me-up delivered with enthusiasm and expertise: “One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain.”

It’s a huge festival. Each festival goer will have their own highlights. A ton of Irish acts emerged and won new friends.

That said, It wasn’t a perfect festival by any means. The food was expensive and the rain wasn’t always our friend, but overall, most of us had a ball and I can’t wait for next year.

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