From Electric Picnic to Burning Man: the life of an Irish event producer

Wild Geese: ‘I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be than LA,’ says Clare’s Freddie Kirk

The City of Angels can suck you in with its glorious weather and endless opportunities. Event producer Freddie Kirk won't be leaving any time soon.

Kirk has been back and forth from the United States since 1994, when he left his native Clare and moved between New York and Texas. A 10-year stint in San Francisco between 1998 and 2008 followed.

“It was an amazing time to be there. I was working in hospitality, but was returning home to Ireland regularly.” In 2004 an opportunity to work at Ireland’s first ever boutique festival opened up.

"I started working with Avril Stanley, who was setting up Body and Soul at Electric Picnic. "


There were no boutique festivals in Ireland at the time, so it was trailblazing. “It was fantastic to be part of something new, which changed the fabric of the festival scene in Ireland for ever. I was Avril’s sidekick, and in the beginning it was just the two of us so we did everything – ticketing, marketing, crew, volunteers, art, everything,” he says.

Kirk enjoyed a great learning curve as Electric Picnic got bigger. "The workload increased and my summers in Ireland got longer, so I moved back to work on Body and Soul full time. We started our own own Body and Soul festival, in Ballinlough Castle in 2010."

Again Kirk found himself part of something new and the festival is now firmly rooted in Ireland’s festival calendar.

By 2013, however, Kirk was ready to move back to the US.

“I had always planned to return to the US, and it was a great time for me to go, having gathered tonnes of experience back home.”

He started working with festivals such as Coachella in Palm Springs; Lightning in a Bottle in Bradley, California; and more recently Download Festival in New York.

“Things can get pretty hectic,” he says. “You could be working in a late-night dance arena, where you have to deal with crowd control issues, medical emergencies or security issues.”

Fun and exciting

In recent years Kirk has been working on Glastonbury in the UK during the summer and also at Burning Man in the Nevada desert. “They are two very different events and I worked in totally different capacities. Glastonbury included more gigs and late-night stuff. At Burning Man I was helping out in one of the luxurious camps. People pay a lot of money to join.”

Straight after Burning Man, Kirk had to work on logistics at the the Emmy TV awards in LA and then for the Golden Globe Awards earlier this month.

“There are so many variables. You have to deal with access, parking issues, narrow roads, large cars, A-list celebrities who have various requirements, hierarchies, traffic, road closures, fans. It’s full-on, but also fun and exciting,” he says.

“There’s a lot of organisation, starting with pre-production, then you’re on site around a week before the event. Work starts at 7am and you work 12-hour days, up to 20 hour days in the lead-up, so you need to regulate yourself.

“Each show is different, and you have to deal with a lot until everyone is inside. I’ve learned to delegate better now. You simply can’t do everything yourself.”

Awards season in Hollywood opens up many opportunities, he says. “You can go from one event to the next, but the beauty of it is, you can take on as much work as you want. “Jobs are often five to six weeks long and then you can jump straight into another job or take some time out. I recently went on a road trip to Arizona and Utah with friends for a few weeks.”

Housing in LA

Kirk says he’s lucky with his housing arrangement in LA, where rents are famously high and property is obscenely expensive.

“I can bounce around. My landlady can rent out my flat while I’m away, so I can travel to Europe in the summer and come back when awards season starts.”

Kirk got a green card in 1994, as part of a lottery. “It was a different time back then, and I was very lucky.” But, he says, it was hard work, getting it back after being in Ireland for six years. “There was a lot of admin and legal stuff. I was so scared of losing it, it made me realise how much I wanted to be in the US.”

Kirk says LA is the land of milk and honey when it comes to production jobs. “The work here is endless, so once you have a visa, you can find work.” Although it’s much harder these days. “Now you have to plead your case. You have to show them that no one else can do your job, which can be difficult in a city brimming with talent, but you can still do it. I know lots of DJs, artists and producers who still get to work over here.

"I got lucky. I have everything I need, and I'm happy here. I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be than Los Angeles. "