Smooth start to Electric Picnic despite increased security

Heightened security ‘observing and profiling’ and designed to be low-key, say organisers

Ireland's biggest music festival, Electric Picnic, kicked off smoothly on Friday in Stradbally, Co Laois despite the 55,000 people in attendance facing increased security measures.

In light of terrorist incidents in London, Barcelona and Manchester – the latter taking place as concert-goers exited an arena – additional security was brought in for the sold-out festival, but this did not appear to delay those entering the site.

"I didn't notice anything different coming in. If anything it was more streamlined: guys went to one side, girls on the other, a quick search, and that was it," said festival-goer Declan Jennings from Galway. "There's a bigger presence of hi-vis security guys in the campsite, but we're glad to see that, even if it just curbs any anti-social behaviour."

Melvin Benn, the director of Electric Picnic organiser Festival Republic, said the additional security was designed to be invisible to those attending.

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“The heightened security is much more around observing and profiling people as they arrive, as well as some protection systems around queuing areas,” he said.

The official threat level for a terrorist attack in the State remains at “possible but not likely” and Mr Benn said “all the security services in Ireland, and we as event organisers, are preparing” as if the level had gone up following the recent attacks in the UK and on the continent.

“Being able to step in quickly if there was a need, and that’s what it’s about,” he added.

Among those attending on Friday were retired rugby international Brian O'Driscoll and politician-turned-broadcaster Ivan Yates who, of his first Electric Picnic visit, said: "It isn't a patch on the Ploughing Championships, although I notice the women aren't wearing bras."

Festival traffic

This year, for the first time, more than 5,000 campers arrived at the site a day early, easing festival traffic in Stradbally and other parts of Co Laois.

“There are zero reports of any major tailbacks – people are arriving now and telling me they left Dublin 75 minutes ago, it seems to be even better than a normal Friday afternoon. The traffic plan is the Garda’s and they’ve done an amazing job,” Mr Benn added.

Picnickers were greeted with an eclectic mix of sights and sounds, from the artful Body & Soul area to the Mindfield area of discussions and debate. Other new features included The Haunt, a decrepit dancehall.

Friday's headliners were The xx, with A Tribe Called Quest Saturday night's biggest draw and 1980s group Duran Duran closing the weekender on Sunday.

For full coverage of the Electric Picnic 2017 see irishtimes.com/culture