Electric Picnic promoter calls for an end to abandoned tents

Melvin Benn says persuasion, not coercion, will get people to ‘do the right thing’


Electric Picnic promoter Melvin Benn has said he is “appalled” by the number of festival-goers who leave their tents behind.

Each year the main campsites at the Electric Picnic in Stradbally are littered with abandoned tents along with the other detritus left behind after the weekend. Many fans buy cheap tents and decide not to bring them home afterwards.

Mr Benn, the chief executive of Festival Republic, which runs the Electric Picnic, said the issue of abandoned tents is a societal one.

“Do I see it as a reflection on the festival? I see it as a reflection on society. What we have at every festival is a decent cross-section of what society is.”

Mr Benn suggested some people were under the impression that the tents are recycled for charity, but only a “tiny percentage” are suitable.

However, he cautioned against taking action against those who leave tents behind saying such a move would be hard to enforce.

Instead, he suggested that the best way to deal with the issue will be through persuasion. Many artists who will be performing at the festival have agreed to speak about the issue from the stage.

“It is not something any festival promoter can succeed in. The individual festivalgoers themselves are the only ones who can find themselves in the position to pick up their tents and dispose of them appropriately,” he said. “Life should be about proactive decisions and I am pushing and working for people to make these proactive decisions.”

Radical action

He maintained there was strong support among the generation attending the Electric Picnic for Extinction Rebellion, the movement calling for radical action on climate change.

Yet, the process of abandoning tents was in opposition to the values of reusing and recycling as espoused by Extinction Rebellion, he argued.

“We are trying to encourage people to do the right thing,” he said. “Our ideal is that we would have to pick up hardly any rubbish. I don’t think a lot of people are getting the connection between them supporting Extinction Rebellion as a point of principle and picking their tent up. They can’t think they are doing the right thing.”

Abandoned tents and rubbish litter a campsite after last year’s Electric Picnic. Photograph: Dave Meehan
Abandoned tents and rubbish litter a campsite after last year’s Electric Picnic. Photograph: Dave Meehan

The Electric Picnic has its own Be Your Environment campsite where some 6,000 of the 50,000 people pay a deposit to clear up their own rubbish after the festival. The deposit is returned to them afterwards if they clear up their own pitch. There are no plans, though, to expand that initiative to all the campsites.

The Latitude festival, which Festival Republic also runs, cut down on the number of abandoned tents this year after bad publicity in 2018, while at the promoter’s inaugural Kaleidoscope Festival in Wicklow this year, no tent was left behind.

Mr Benn said Electric Picnic has a 100 per cent recovery of waste from the site , most of which is burnt in an incinerator.

Some 97 per cent of the cup and the bottles on site are recycled and Festival Republic hopes that there will be no single use plastic on site at the Electric Picnic by the end of 2021.

“Where we can do the right thing, we do the right thing,” he said.

Electric Picnic takes place between Friday, August 30th and Sunday, September 1st in Stradbally, Co Laois.