Published on 7 Sep 2009

An insight into young Ireland at the Electric Picnic

Electric Picnic. It might better be termed the eclectic picnic – a totally amazing event out beyond the verdant turf of the golf courses and the famous Curragh race course in the heart of Ireland.

Ostensibly a folk and rock-fest starring everyone from Brian Wilson to Florence and the Machine, the Picnic proved much more than that.

Thirty thousand people pitch their tents for a festival that sports soul food, healers and a literary fringe all set to the vast deep base throb from the main sound stage. There are so many big tops and giant marquees that some have to be hired from as far afield as the United States.

It is a cross between Glastonbury and Hay-on-Wye. I was there to participate in the literary fringe.

A news quiz beyond satire, a live chat show with the new anchor of Ireland’s Late Late Show fresh from his triumphant launch, Ryan Tubridy, and an amazing four handed discussion on conflict reporting starring, among others, former Beirut hostage Brian Keenan and Booker long list nominee Ed O’Loughlin.

Out of the apparent chaos emerged an extraordinary insight into the state of young Ireland. In very much better shape than either Ireland itself or its leadership. The festival represented an extraordinary cross section of young achievers.

I was amazed to find that Channel 4 News is staple viewing for this segment of Irish society. The age range of those present seemed to range from 18 to 35 – plenty of families and small children but in the main, people in their mid twenties, professional – doctors, engineers, scientists and more.

There appeared an almost complete disconnect with the country’s political leadership. Taoiseach Brian Cowen is given only weeks of political life and his opponents not much more.

Over night the respected former premier Garret Fitzgerald had unexpected come out in favour of the massive €90 Billion toxic asset bank that the politicians want to set up to sap the nations Icelandic style banking debts. Hatred of the scheme threatens the “Yes” vote on the rerun of the Lisbon Treaty referendum. The “No’s” are coming up.

But it was on the flight home that the true icing on the Electric picnic cake manifested itself. I found myself amongst the fifteen strong backing band for the great Senegalese singer Baba Maal who had headlined on Saturday afternoon.

Tim and Simon, two guys in their fifties, represented the sax section, a wonderful Northern Irish Trombonist, David the road manager, and young Jim the percussionist, talked about their lives on the road and the roles they play in bringing Baaba Maal’s music to fruition.

Tim and Simon were both, like me, former cathedral choristers, Tim from Kings College Cambridge. The trombonist had studied at the Royal College of Music.

If you love Baaba Maal, and I do, it doesn’t get much better than this.

If ever you seen signs to the Electric Picnic, ever again, and have stout wellies – go.

Oh and one last tale – a kindly cycle rickshaw driver, Nyall, in Dublin had warned me to buy said wellies. I scoured Dunnes, where they sell everything.

“Wellies is off sir” said the assistant, “Electric Picnic has cleaned out the lot.”

Same story everywhere till I got to Outdoor Wear. One last pair, my size 44, standing forlorn. “Sale, €8, both left footed” said the sign. In the land of My Left Foot, I found myself for two days staggering round agricultural land in Portlaoise wearing two left boots.

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14 reader comments

  1. Jeffrey Lam says:

    sounds great!
    presumably someone was also staggering around wearing two right boots? You should have met up….

  2. Justine says:

    Jon, I saw you in the leviathan tent on Saturday at Electric Picnic, you were a joy to listen to. thanks for being there!

  3. stephen says:

    Jon, saw you in Dublin fiday afternoon, glad you enjoyed the electric picnic , and YES, we are all glued to C4 news-love it

  4. Saltaire Sam says:

    Jon, while you’ve been confusing everyone by leaving footprints that would confuse Poirot or Holmes, there’s been an interesting furore over whether or not Lybia should pay compensation for their semtex used by the IRA.

    I just wondered if you thought this is a road we should go down. If UK arms dealers have to pay compensation for all the people they have indirectly maimed or killed, it might be more expensive than the banks collapse

  5. john cheasty says:

    Jon,got to say hello to you on saturday at the electric picnic my ten year old son glenn had his picture taken with you .It will be treasured ,Your interviews with Brian Keenan,Ed O Loughlin ,Geogre Seremba and Helena Mulkerns was amazing . Thanks for being there roll on 2010.

  6. As says:

    Hey Jon when did you become a supporter of the LTTE? If i had known i would have never sat next to you at the Unltd awards dinner. Why dont you just join the LTTE? You are a disgrace.

  7. Naoise Nunn says:

    Jon, as well as being one of the hottest tickets of the festival this year, you were the consummate gentleman. Many thanks for your massive contribution to a great programme in MindField and look forward to seeing you soon. Naoise Nunn. Director Mindfield @ Electric Picnic.

  8. Naoise Nunn says:

    And by the way, I’ve kept the left-footed wellies as a memento..and for you to wear next year! N.

  9. Ashley says:

    Not only did the left footed boots serve you sir, they also kept at least two others from swamp foot after you left them in the green room.
    I think all were proud to walk in your footsteps.
    Wonderful to see you there.

  10. Martina says:

    Jon thanks a million for coming i enjoyed Yourself, Ryan Tuberty, Mark Little and Lorraine Keane, It was brill!

  11. John Hurson says:

    Jon, it was an absolute pleasure to have met you on Saturday. I saw you at both shows, and it was definetly one of the highlights of the weekend for me.
    Thank you so much for coming to the Picnic, and hopefully we will see you again next year.
    Channel 4 news is the only news worth watching in Ireland, so keep up the good work.
    I hope you get to watch and enjoy the dvd I gave you, “3 Uncles Go To Gaza”.
    Until the next time Jon, good luck.

    John Hurson

  12. Richard says:

    Hi Jon,
    To echo the other responses it was really great meeting you last weekend with Naoise and the gang . Saturday morning at Leviathan was definitely the highlight for us … wise witty straight shooter that you are.

    All the best – Richard.

    Thought you might get a kick out of this:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/27735483@N06/3902239234/sizes/o/

  13. Emmet says:

    You were a gent to meet and listen to and watch. Best of luck in the future.

    Glad you liked my bling and Tshirt

  14. Chucky says:

    Do you get a prize for every time you use “ostensibly”?

Comments are closed.