Cate McCurry and Dominic McGrath, PA
Updated 2.30pm. Additional reporting by Sarah Slater.
A councillor in Laois has said he fears Electric Picnic organisers will “pull out” of holding the annual festival in the county given the decision by the local authority not to grant a licence for next month’s event.
On Wednesday evening, the council decided to pull the plug on the September event citing their decision was due to the “most up-to-date public health advice” available from the HSE.
Fine Gael councillor John King said the decision “is a big upset not only for Laois but for other neighbouring counties and all small and medium-sized businesses which supply the festival which attracts 70,000 people.”
However, Cllr King provided a ray of hope to organisers revealing Festival Republic and MCD are entitled to appeal the council's decision and that they can also apply for a new licence for a different time of the year.
“There are and will be a lot of anxious people who are worried that the organisers will pull-out of Stradbally altogether and go to an urban setting.
— Electric Picnic (@EPfestival) August 5, 2021
“That is the last thing any rural community and environs wants. But from my understanding they can appeal the decision and re-apply for a new licence,” Cllr King said.
“There is no doubt that the organisers have lost a lot of money on trying to stage the festival. We are not just talking about a few thousand euros here - it could be anything from €50,000-€100,000 when it comes to booking bands, tents and backstage crews etc in advance.
“But I understand why the council had to make the decision to not grant the licence as they couldn’t turn around and grant this international event and stop, for example, local community festivals.”
Cllr King said he would appeal to the local authority to examine whether a licence could be granted at some point for later this year when more “younger festival-goers would be fully vaccinated.”
“It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the festival could be held in November or December, despite colder weather. I would appeal to the organisers and the council not to pull the plug entirely. More and more people will be fully vaccinated at that stage,” he added.
Following the council's decision, organisers called on the Government to issue new re-opening guidelines for the sector.
In a statement published on Thursday morning, the organisers of the festival said they were “extremely disappointed” at the decision.
“This is despite our proposal that everyone attending the event, including ticket holders, staff and artists, would have to be fully vaccinated and registered in advance for Department of Health contact tracing,” it said.
“To see Scotland, a country with a similar population and virtually identical vaccine rollout and uptake as our own, only announce on Tuesday that they were easing restrictions and allowing events such as TRNSMT Festival in Glasgow go ahead in September makes this decision even more difficult to accept.
“This is a huge blow and set back to our entire sector, which was mandated to close on March 12th, 2020 – over 500 days ago.
“Such a decision now means the further loss of employment for over 3,000 people, who had clung to the hope that Electric Picnic would bring an end to their period of hardship.
“We now call upon all members of Government to interrupt their summer recess and immediately issue reopening guidelines we have being calling for, with a reopening date for the sector of August 16th on a phased basis, building to the implementation of no restrictions from September 1st, 2021 onwards.
“We wish to thank all the fans for their patience and the community of Stradbally and the people of Laois for their huge ongoing support during this difficult time.
“We will now review our options and be in contact directly with all ticket holders over the next week.”
Gutted to hear electric picnic has been cancelled was looking forward to seeing my Irish ☘️ brothers n sisters and my cousin Guinness
— Liam Gallagher (@liamgallagher) August 5, 2021
Following the statement from organisers, promoter Caroline Downey from MCD said they were devastated at the council's decision, saying they had done everything possible to ensure the event would be safe.
"Everything we were asked to do was done and it’s not enough. We have put two years of work into Electric Picnic. We had work for 3,000 people associated with the event,” Ms Downey told RTÉ News at One.
There was no road plan, Ms Downey added: “We don't know what is happening. I don't know who is making the decisions anymore.”
Last year’s festival was cancelled due to the pandemic and tickets bought back then were due to be valid for the rescheduled event with 90 per cent already sold.
Oasis star Liam Gallagher tweeted: “Gutted to hear Electric Picnic has been cancelled. Was looking forward to seeing my Irish brothers n sisters and my cousin Guinness.”