As the last major festival of the summer takes place this weekend, many curious music fans will be joining thousands of well-worn EP-ers in Stradbally. Regular Picnic-er Siobhan Cronin offers advice to first-timers
1. Be prepared for traffic
First off, there WILL be traffic queues. The route from the south is slightly less busy than the motorway from Dublin, but either way, time for the obligatory ‘Has Everyone Been to the Loo?’ question before you start that engine, or hop on that bus. Lines of wobbly bums on motorway hard shoulders are sights we can do without, before we even get there, folks! Be patient, take your time, and have your EP playlist on your iPod.
2. Remember where you parked
Hands up. Two years ago I spent four hours searching for my car, convinced it was in Car Park B, when it was actually in Car Park A, but thanks to some very helpful and patient security men I eventually located the family ‘bus’ and kissed the ground with relief, at 5am! Take a photo of where you park, and the cars parked around you, and any other distinguishing features in the area, like telegraph poles or large trees – oh, and maybe the name of the car park too!
3. Pack lightly
If you are camping, you will have plenty to carry, so don’t over-pack. Footwear should consist of one pair of wellies and if you need a back-up, a pair of runners lest a heatwave suddenly appear from nowhere. Clothes-wise: shorts, the jeans you travel in, two t-shirts, a cosy jumper and a rain jacket should get you through. Oh, and some underwear. Job done. This is no place for your Louboutins, girls.
4. Plan ahead
There are like a zillion bands, workshops, food debates, poetry readings, political conversations, dance clubs and lots, lots more to see, so if there is something you really, really don’t want to miss, you need to keep a note of the venue and time. Hours pass like seconds on a weekend at Electric Picnic, and before you know it, it’ll be Monday morning and you’ll be packing up wondering why you spent the entire weekend at the amusement fair.
5. Let technology guide you
Unlike the days of Féile and Siamsa (yes I am old enough to remember) technology has made festival-going a breeze. The Electric Picnic app will guide you through the weekend’s events, help you plan your schedule and give you a map of the entire estate. Phone firm Three will be offering phone charging services at their 3Live area and also power packs for €10.
6. Chill out at the lake
For the first time ever, you can pack your swimming costume for EP – and use it for swimming! The estate’s man-made lake will be open to festival goers in an area surrounded by a copse of ancient oak and ash trees. To reach the lake, follow the signposted riverside path leading from the Jimi Hendrix Campsite area, where lifeguards will be on duty to watch out for everyone’s safety over the course of the weekend.
7. Support your own
From music, to food, to poetry, and more, West Cork is well represented at this year’s festival. Skibbereen’s Brian Deady, Clonakilty’s Oisin Bickley, foodies Sally and John McKenna, Levis’ bar in Ballydehob, poet Cormac Lally and a host of others will be flying the flag for West Cork. Us Corkies like nothing better than ‘hanging out with our own’ and posting the evidence online, to annoy everyone else.
8. How to look cool
From the ultra-hip zen-like tranquility of the Body & Soul area to the quirky art in The Hazel Wood, there’s nothing says ‘cool’ quite like knowing all the in-spots in Stradbally. One that takes our fancy this year is the Bold mOTel from Orchard Thieves. The organisers say: ‘The Bold mOTel is no average resting spot … time stands still at this forgotten playland where it’s always time to be bold. The antics kick off from 1pm on Saturday and Sunday but The Bold mOTel will officially open its doors with a launch party on Friday night from 7pm ‘til late. The party’s pièce de résistance is the giant abandoned swimming pool-turned dancefloor.’ Now, what’s cooler than that?
9. Learn a skill
It’s not all music, you know. In fact, that’s just the half of it, literally. Apart from getting tips from Scouting Ireland’s helpers on how to pitch your four-man tent without coming to blows with your cousin, you can learn an entirely new skill each year. This time we rather like the dance workshops at Dance Days. ‘We’re going global this year with Bollywood Beat’s Bollyrobics,’ they say. ‘A disco version of traditional sean-nós; the salsa and cha cha. We have breakdance; a movement and circus blend, a soul music dance jam and back by popular demand – old school hip hop, jazz and the charleston.’ Time to get your dancing feet in gear before LCD Soundsystem and New Order take to the stage, then!
10. Get a load of the grub
Remember the days when festival food was a greasy chipper or a limp lettuce roll? Well, banish those thoughts because Electric Picnic’s Theatre of Food is a sight to behold for those of us who believe in ‘lining the stomach’ every day. Ireland’s best chefs like nothing better than the chance to have a fry-off or grill-off between themselves and this means it’s win-win for everybody. Dotted throughout the estate you will also find plenty of wok delights, bagel stalls, vegan and vegetarian options and hot and cold mouth-watering delicacies. You’ll never eat this well at home.
One more for luck: 11. Bring loo roll
If I could bring one thing to a festival, it would be loo roll, loo roll, loo roll. (That’s three things. – Ed). You can never have enough loo roll. Apart from its obvious use, you can mop up beer spills on your sleeping bag, remove unwanted slugs, plug your ears at night to block out the snoring buffoons, and wipe off your rain-smeared mascara. Just don’t forget to bring it with you when you head for the portaloos.