A Tale of Two Festivals…

Have you ever heard of Electric Picnic? It’s a weekend festival held in County Laois in the Irish midlands. The festival’s web page explains it as:

Ireland’s largest gathering of music & arts, and the ultimate rock n’ roll circus, Electric Picnic has established itself as one of the world’s most unique festivals. With a great selection of music, art, theatre, comedy, food and holistic health, it’s the most delightfully diverse end of summer party on the Emerald Isle

It’s wiki entry states that it is jointly organised by a major Irish music promoter and a major UK music promoter and that:

It was voted Best Medium-Sized European Festival at the 2010 European Festival Awards, and has been voted Best Big Festival at each of the last four Irish Festival Awards since they began in 2007. The Electric Picnic won eight awards in Hot Press’s 2011 Festival Awards, including ‘Best Large Festival’. In 2023, it was awarded ‘Festival of the Year’ in the Ticketmaster Awards.

The Picnic has been described as “Ireland’s version of Glastonbury” and “a great inspiration to Latitude” by one of its business partners, Laois. US magazine Billboard calling it as “a magnificent rock n roll circus, a textbook example of everything a festival should be”and Rolling Stone describing it as “one of the best festivals we’ve ever been to”. The 2008 event was described by The Irish Times as “the best Electric Picnic yet.

Billboard, Rolling Stone and the Irish Times? Praise indeed.

Apparently, the festival has a main tent with a capacity of 14,000 with a wider exterior area with capacity for further thousands. Last Sunday the 4th set an Electric Picnic record when some 30,000 festival goers gathered to listen and sing along to a group’s set. This was the crowd inside the tent:

YouTube video

And this was the crowd outside the tent:

YouTube video

Now, of course, Electric Picnic are free to book who they wish and fair play to them and rather than go over the attractions (or not) of the Wolfetones again I’d like to compare the reaction to a crowd singing a Wolftones song in County Laois at the beginning of September and a crowd singing a Wolftones song in County Antrim at the beginning of August.

There was a short-lived flurry of activity of Twitter with Newstalk FM touching on it:

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern Bertie Ahern said that young people singing part of a song at a concert equating to concerns of a pro-IRA sentiment growing in the country “is a bit overblown”


As far as I can ascertain, the Irish Times editorial hasn’t expressed outrage at tens of thousands of people allegedly glorifying terrorism.

So, where is the Twitter meltdown, the reams of blog outrage, the days of radio discussion and the outraged newspaper articles and editorials?

Surely it couldn’t be because one festival is a purely commercial venture seen by established Irish political and media giants as a bit of craic and a showcase of cool Ireland letting its hair down and being chic, hip and trendy while the other has a very definite political element and is organised by a community that was marginalised and demonised for decades?

Could it?

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