Electric Picnic's diverse feast ranges from Sex Pistols to herd of man-made elephants


THE ELECTRIC Picnic, the festival where the best in creature comforts meets the alternative lifestyle, gets under way today with an early promise of blue skies and a decidedly green theme.

As ever the music will vie with the multitude of backstage attractions for the attention of the 32,000 fans who are all expected to be on site in Stradbally, Co Laois, by this evening.

Sigur Ros will headline the main stage at the festival this evening.They have compounded the handicap of singing in Icelandic by also singing in a made-up language called Hopelandic, yet have won a cult following with their original brand of ethereal melodies.

Funk veteran George Clinton headlines a particularly strong line-up tomorrow which includes Franz Ferdinand, Wilco and Welsh soul diva Duffy whose album Rockferryis the biggest seller in the UK this year.

Festival organiser John Reynolds defended the choice of the Sex Pistols as headline act to close the festival. "People have been asking if they are just a cabaret act or the real deal. I've seen them twice already this year, and we'll see on Sunday that they are the real deal," he said.

Though festival-goers ostensibly come for the music, the diversions are as bewildering as ever. The expanded Body and Soul Area will have 70 therapists, a sauna, a theatre, yoga and a 360-degree organic fire show environment among a myriad of attractions.

"People are touched by what happens here and the degree of attention to detail and the love that is poured into the place," said Body and Soul organiser Avril Stanley.

The children's area has also been expanded and can be found in the reopened wall garden. There will be spoken word venues and a cookery demonstration featuring five Michelin-starred chefs.

Visitors will be greeted by two striking installations on arrival. The Temple of Truth is a sculpture made out of plywood that looks part-Eiffel Tower and part-Buddhist temple.

It has been constructed on site by acclaimed American artist David Best and is dedicated to the families and the memory of suicide victims. It will be burnt to the ground on Sunday evening.

Another conspicuous installation will be the herd of 13 life-size Asian elephants, who were made in Clonakilty, Co Cork, and have been touring Ireland and Britain to raise awareness of the fate of elephants in India. The charity Elephant Family, which built the sculptures, was founded by twin sisters Ruth and Mary Powys.

The festival, now in its fifth year, has set itself a target of being the most carbon-neutral festival in the world by the next decade.

"We want this to be an example to the world," said Conor O'Riain from Emission Zero, who will be responsible for offsetting emissions from the festival. At present they are estimated to be about the equivalent of the emissions of 80 passenger cars every year.

The theme will be apparent to every visitor to Electric Picnic who arrives on site and will be presented with two plastic bags for recycling. A whole new area, Global Green, has been created and the two Green ministers, John Gormley and Eamon Ryan, will participate in a discussion on climate change on Saturday.

Visitors are asked to set off in good time and to follow the map instructions on the Garda website to avoid the long queues which occurred on Friday afternoon last year.