Electric Picnic sells out for first time since recession started

Aggressive ticket pricing discounting has paid off for the promoters

(Left-right) Fairie Mo, Claire Kehoe, Holly O’Sullivan, Felix Jellett with his dog Zippy and Lucy McCarron at the Electric Picnic Press Launch 2013. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

(Left-right) Fairie Mo, Claire Kehoe, Holly O’Sullivan, Felix Jellett with his dog Zippy and Lucy McCarron at the Electric Picnic Press Launch 2013. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Tue, Aug 27, 2013, 21:17

The last time Electric Picnic sold out was in September 2008. Later that month Lehman Brothers in the US collapsed and, here, the Government issued the bank guarantee.

Nothing has been the same since then. But now, five years after that fateful September, the Electric Picnic is a sell-out again.

The difficulties of the squeezed middle classes in Ireland are well documented, but about 35,000 people have somehow found the €150 to €230 admission price to spend the weekend partying in a field in Stradbally, Co Laois.

It is quite a sharp increase on the 22,000 who turned up last year. That figure precipitated some soul searching on part of the promoters and a public spat between the festival’s biggest shareholder Festival Republic and its founder John Reynolds follower over many issues, most notably ticket prices.

Reynolds is still involved as a director but it was Festival Republic’s Melvin Benn who turned up today to talk to the media in advance of this year’s festival, the 10th, which takes place from Friday to Sunday.

Not only is the festival safe for this year, but it is safe for the next 10 years, according to Mr Benn who said the Electric Picnic is now “part of the Irish psyche. We’re absolutely committed to it.”

He put the sell-out down to the aggressive ticketing strategy that was adopted earlier this year. Those who had been to the festival three times could purchase a €230 ticket for €149.50.

Those who had been to it once could buy a ticket for €169.50. Other early birds could buy a full-price ticket for €189.50.

Mr Benn said about 80 per cent of tickets had been bought by people who had been to the festival previously.

By the time festival tickets went on sale at full price, a sell-out was on the cards.

“The ticket price was hugely important,” he said. “It wasn’t that the festival was overpriced, but it was just a difficult price for people in this economy. It would demonstrate that the ticket price was the right way to go.”

There are no tickets left, but Mr Benn advised those who would like to go the the picnic to book for next year.

This year’s Electric Picnic includes such acts as Bjork, Fatboy Slim, Arctic Monkeys, David Byrne, Robert Plant Presents Sensational Space Shifters, My Bloody Valentine, Ellie Goulding and Disclosure.

There will also be an eclectic mixture of music, spoken word and comedy acts.

The festival site is substantially the same as it was last year although, with a nod to the advancing age of some of the audience, there are seats in the main arena.

The popular Body & Soul area will have as its centrepiece a wooden structure called the Peace Pagoda, which will be a performance space during the day and a dance floor at night. The festival would not be the same without its idiosyncratic installations.

This year’s creation is the Electrical Maze, which is made from 360-400 used washing machines. Its creator Donnacha Cahill claims to have been collecting the machines for 30 years.

lGardaí are warning concert-goers to be on the watch for forged tickets.

Genuine tickets have a security barcode. Mr Benn warned people against buying tickets if they have any suspicions about them.