As kids pack their school bags for their first week back in class, adults pack their cars with tents, blow-up mattresses, a bag of cans and enough crisps to cure the hangovers of 1,000 men for the last big hoopla of the summer: Electric Picnic.
Even though the hotter-than-hell summer weather has gone, the forecast is for a good weekend in Stradbally, with temperatures of up to 20 degrees predicted for Saturday and Sunday. So we can keep our raincoats tied around our waists until the 2am chill sets in – and our Penneys wellies might even stay as fresh as the day we bought them. (But don’t risk leaving your raincoat and wellies at home; should there be lashings of rain – this being Ireland, you can never rule it out – you don’t want to be standing knee deep in mud with only a pair of Converse to protect you.)
The line-up this year is rather tasty. The big show-stopping performances should come from Kendrick Lamar (who's headlining the main stage on Friday night), Dua Lipa and Massive Attack (who are both playing the main stage on Saturday). 2FM Live's The Story of Hip Hop: Part 3, which features some of the best names in Irish music, should see Rankin's Wood reach full capacity on Friday night.
Before you hit the road for Stradbally this weekend, here’s everything you need to know for Electric Picnic 2018.
Are tickets still available?
Tickets are long gone, but if you keep an eye on Twitter, using the #ticketfairy hashtag, you might come across someone actually selling a ticket and not begging for one. But take note, as An Garda Síochána has warned gig-goers about fake print-at-home tickets that are being sold online, so double- and triple-check before you hand over your money for a ticket from someone you don't know.
What time does it kick off at?
Early-ticket holders, plus holders of general camper-van and family camper-van tickets, can get into their campsites from 4pm on Thursday; everyone else can get in from 9am on Friday, when the general and family campsites open to all. Holders of Sunday tickets (who don’t have access to campsites) are allowed in to the festival site from 11am that day.
When can we actually see some music?
The main arena opens at 2pm on Friday and runs until midnight; the late-night arena is open from midnight until 4am. On Saturday the main arena is open from 11am until 2am; the late-night arena will be open from 8am until 4am. On Sunday, if you’ve any energy left at all, the main arena will open from 11am until midnight and the late-night arena will open from 8am until 4am.
What’s the camping situation like?
Boutique camping is still available in Pink Moon Village, Harvest Moon Boutique and Harvest Moon (In the Woods), but they're likely to sell out soon. With bell tents, huts, tepees (regular and "Tardis")and yurts available from Silk Road Tents, LPM Bohemia, FestiHut, PodPads and Earthworks, a group of you – from two to eight people – could try a lusher approach to camping for a shiny penny. Check out here what boutique options are left.
Another camping option is Kip’n’Go, in the Janis Joplin campsite. For €7.50 per person per day you get a prepitched tent that can include sleeping bags and mats – so there’s no need to pack it all up to go home, and certainly no need to create unnecessary waste by abandoning your tent when you leave.
If you want to cook in the campsites, you should bring only disposable barbecues or a permitted cooking stove, such as a solid-fuel, firelighter or methylated-spirit stove. Leave the gas canisters (any size, including capsules), petrol burners and any form of aerosol can over 250ml at home, as they are not permitted.
All camping areas will close at 1pm on Monday, September 3rd.
Will we be fed, watered and showered?
Yes. More than 100 food stalls will be running, again across the main arena and campsites, all weekend, catering to all appetites. If you want to up your notions game, an artisan food market will offer good local produce, or you can pop into the Theatre of Food to catch some of Ireland’s best chefs in action.
There will be free drinking-water points across all of the campsites and the main arena, beside the toilet blocks.
Showers will be available from 8am until 2pm, and again from 4pm until 7pm, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They’re being sponsored by Nivea, a range of whose products will be available for sampling in the showers at the Jimi Hendrix campsite.
What about alcohol?
All bars will close at 1am. After 1am, up to four – let me repeat that: four – cans per person will be allowed into the main arena. There's a limit of 48 cans per person for the weekend in the camping areas. Glass is not permitted anywhere in the festival. The bars will be operating a Challenge 25 policy; accepted forms of ID are passport, driver's licence and Garda age cards.
What if I run out of cash?
There will be ATMs in the late-night arena, beside the entrance to the main arena, but be prepared to queue. Treat the wait as some much-needed me time, perhaps. Contactless payment will be available at every bar, so tap until you can tap no more.
What else can we do there?
If music isn't your thing – although, in that case, what are you doing at Electric Picnic at all? – the comedy tent has Alison Spittle, David O'Doherty, Russell Howard and Paul Currie, among many others. It's also worth visiting the Mindfield spoken-word area, where you can catch the likes of Lisa Hannigan and Dylan Haskins interviewing Marian Keyes for their podcast, Soundings, on Ah, Hear! the new podcast stage.
The Irish Times's Sorcha Pollak will be chatting to the writer Michael Harding, the former political prisoner Ibrahim Halawa and the theatre maker Oonagh Murphy as part of New to the Parish.
The Theatre Stage, in association with Dublin Theatre Festival, will see Thisispopbaby's presentation of Tara Flynn's Not a Funny Word, Pan Narran Theatre's My Left Nut, performed and cowritten by Michael Patrick and Oisín Kearney, Malaprop's Love +, which was devised by Dylan Coburn Gray, Claire O'Reilly, Breffni Holahan and Maeve O'Mahony. Plenty of things other than dancing to do here.
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How do I get there by public transport?
By bus and train Bus Éireann is running return services from Dublin, Cork and Galway. Check buseireann.ie for more.
TravelMaster will be running services from more than 20 locations in Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Waterford and Carlow.
Concertbus.ie is serving two routes that cover nine pick-up points across the country. Return tickets cost between €40 and €50.
Portlaoise has the closest railway station; Martley’s is running a shuttle bus to and from the festival. Tickets are €5 each way; no booking required.
By bike If you are cycling down, you should come through Gate 1a, on the Abbeyleix road. You can leave your bike in the designated area beside the Tour de Picnic bike racks.
And what if I’m driving? Weekend ticket holders, here are your driving routes:
M7 southbound, from Dublin and the north
Cars should leave the M7 at Ballydavis (junction 16) and then take the R445 (the old Dublin road). At Rathbrennan, turn left on to the R425, the new Carlow road, going straight through Bloomfield roundabout (signposted Abbeyleix) and on to Sheffield Cross. At Sheffield Cross follow the main road left on to the R426 and head for Money Cross and Lamberton Cross. Turn left at either Lamberton or Money Cross, as directed by gardaí, and on to designated parking areas.
You should expect delays because of roadworks on the M7 between junctions 8 and 11; factor this into your travel plans.
The M7 is being widened in both directions in Co Kildare between junction 8, at Johnstown, and junction 11, near Newbridge, where the M9 begins; the affected area has a temporary speed restriction of 60km/h.
“Make sure you plan ahead for your journey to Electric Picnic and allow yourself plenty of time to get to the festival site,” said Elaine O’Sullivan of AA Roadwatch. “If you are leaving after work on Friday, keep in mind that evening rush-hour delays start to pick up a little earlier and you will see increased volumes of commuter traffic from about 2.30pm onwards.”
M7 northbound, from Limerick and the southwest
Leave the M7 at the Togher interchange (junction 17) and head left, towards Portlaoise. At the Meelick junction turn right on to the L6310-0. Turn right when the road meets the R426. This road then joins the R425 at Rathleague; continue on the R426 and turn left at either Lamberton or Money Cross, as directed by gardaí, and on to designated parking areas.
M8 northbound, from Cork and the south
Leave the M8 at junction 3, for Ballacolla and Abbeyleix. Turn right on to the R433, heading through Ballacolla village and on to Abbeyleix. At Abbeyleix town turn left on to the N77 through the town, then, just before leaving Abbeyleix, turn right on to the R425 towards Ballyroan Village, and on to Cashel Cross. From here follow the main road to the right on to the R427, merging with other event traffic at Money Cross and on into the designated parking areas.
The M8 has been closed in both directions all week between junction 13, at Mitchelstown South, and junction 14, at Fermoy. Diversions have been in place via the R639, the old N8. The motorway is scheduled to reopen at 8pm on Friday.
N80, from Carlow and the southeast
Take the N80 and N78 to Simmons Mills, then head via the Windy Gap into Stradbally. Turn left at Court Square (opposite Dunne’s pub) on to the Timahoe road, then turn left into the designated car park.
N80, from the west
Proceed via Mountmellick and on to Portlaoise town. At the Fairgreen roundabout turn right on to the ring road. Continue to Mountrath Road – the R445 – and turn right. At Rockdale roundabout turn left on to the ring road (L26964-0). Turn right at the roundabout, to take the N77 to Meelick junction, where you’ll merge with traffic from the M7 northbound, from Limerick and the southwest, as above.
Family weekend ticket holders, here are your routes (NB, you must have family weekend tickets to use the family car park):
M7 southbound (Dublin and the north), M7 northbound (Limerick and the southwest), N80 (west) and M8 northbound (Cork and south)
Take junction 16 off the M7 towards Bloomfield Cross on the R445, in the direction of Portlaoise. Turn left on to the R425, heading towards the N80, Stradbally. At the roundabout take the first exit, on to the N80 for Stradbally. The family car park is in the centre of the town, on the left hand side, and will be signposted.
N80, from Carlow and the southeast
Take the N80 and N78 to Simmons Mills, then the N80 via the Windy Gap into Stradbally. Continue on the N80: the family car park is in the centre of the town, on the right-hand side, and will be signposted.
Sunday ticket holders, here are your routes:
M7 southbound (Dublin and the north), M7 northbound (Limerick and the southewest) and M8 northbound (Cork and the south)
Take junction 16 off the M7 towards Bloomfield Cross on the R445 in the direction of Portlaoise. Turn left on to the R425, heading towards the N80, Stradbally. At the roundabout take the first exit on to the N80 Stradbally. Before you enter the town turn right into the designated car parks.
N80, from Carlow and the southeast
Take the N80 and N78 to Simmons Mills, then head via the Windy Gap into Stradbally. Turn left at Court Square (opposite Dunne’s pub) on to the Timahoe road and turn left into the designated car park.
Electric Picnic provides free parking. Weekend ticket holders can use red car parks A, B and C, on the Abbeyleix road; green car parks V, W, X, Y and Z, off the N80; and the yellow car park on the Timahoe road.
What if I need access facilities?
Disabled customers must already have a standard weekend ticket. The deadline for the personal-assistant ticket has passed, but Electric Picnic’s access scheme includes the following facilities: wheelchair-accessible viewing platform, accessible car parking or drop-off pass, personal-assistant ticket at no additional cost, accessible toilets and disabled-access camping.
The disabled-access campsite will have accessible toilets, fridges (for storing medication) and electrical hook-ups for wheelchair charging. Disabled guests can have two friends camping with them. Disabled platforms/viewing areas will be at most of the stages, with a strict one-plus-one policy. Accessible toilets should be located beside each viewing platform. There will also be accessible toilets in the disabled campsite and at the medical tent. If you have any access queries, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What about the weather?
The ever-reliable yr.no is telling us that there will no rain in Stradbally this weekend, with temperatures reaching 20 degrees on Saturday and Sunday. Friday will be a little cooler, at 16 degrees. Pack your sunscreen and your wellies nevertheless.
What about security and personal safety?
Stay hydrated all weekend and know your limits with booze. Pick a meeting point for your friends ahead of time, just in case your phone runs out of charge or gets lost. A welfare tent, open 24 hours a day, has experienced staff who can provide confidential advice about drugs, alcohol, legal highs and sexual health, and offer any support if you need to talk. They offer a monitored rest and recovery area if you’ve overdone it. Please go to the welfare tent if you experience any problems or need to talk to someone for any reason.
Do not bring large bags into the arena, as they will take longer to search. There will be a separate lane for people without bags and people with small bags (no bigger than an A4 sheet of paper).
Banned items include animals (other than registered guide and hearing dogs), candles/incense sticks, weapons, sky lanterns and kites, drones, fireworks, flares, blowtorches, glass items over 10ml, unofficial high-visibility and reflective jackets, spray cans, sound systems, professional cameras and video/audio equipment, portable laser equipment and laser pens, nitrous oxide, megaphones, illegal substances, drugs and legal/herbal highs, goods for unauthorised trading, glass, skateboards or scooters, and air horns. Campfires are also banned.