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.
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.
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.