What will the Electric Picnic look like in 2019?
After a successful weekend in Stradbally, thoughts turn to the future of the Electric Picnic
Melvin Benn said a very interesting thing at the Banter discussion on festivals at the Electric Picnic at the weekend. Asked where he thought the festival would be in five years’ time, the Festival Republic boss, who now controls the Co Laois event after a legal battle over ownership with Picnic founder John Reynolds, talked about relevance. The important thing for a festival like the Picnic, he said, was about remaining relevant.
It’s a striking observation in a year when the event effortlessly increased its capacity to 41,000. By pushing back the fences and stages on those 600 acres of well drained land in the middle of Stradbally (and making sure there were over 1,090 portaloos on site), Benn and his team accomodated the extra numbers without any bother.
This meant there was room for old favourites and new arrivals like Other Voices. It ensured that the Picnic mix of old timers, families, beardy hipsters, fervent music fans with pages of bands to see and newbies taking the air for the first time had plenty of room to roam. Complaints were few to non-existent. A hassle-free weekend for all.
But when Benn talks about relevance, he knows that maintaining the Picnic’s current trajectory requires careful handling. There’s certainly scope to add another few thousand to the capacity and bring in a million in revenue, but what effect will this have on the Picnic’s vibe?
After all, a festival called Oxegen sold 80,000 tickets in 2009 and five years on, it’s both irrelevant and non-existent. You can go from hero to zero that quickly. Punters are fickle and what works in 2014 might not wash in 2016. It will be fascinating to see how the Picnic progresses in its teenage years and where it will be five years from now.