Sínann Fetherston brings you behind the scenes of the Electric Picnic 2022 Press Day.

After a long pandemic break, the Electric Picnic music and arts festival is finally making its grand return to Stradbally, Co. Laois.

This year's festival will see some "significant changes" to the layout due to the whopping 70,000 attendees expected to dance their way around the various arenas, campsites, theatres and bars this weekend.

The Coronas performing on main stage at the Electric Picnic Press Day, Tuesday 29 August 2022. Picture: Alf Harvey.
The Coronas performing on main stage at the Electric Picnic Press Day. Picture: Alf Harvey.

Speaking on the updates, Melvin Benn of Festival Republic - the promoters behind Electric Picnic - said that Picnickers will find "absolute heaven" on arrival.

"I do genuinely believe it will blow their mind," he smiled. "The changes are, although they're subtle, they're quite dramatic at the same time."

As well as introducing new additions such as Fish Town and expanding on returning favourites such as Freetown (more on that later), the main stage has moved and expanded in order to accommodate the increased capacity.

Elsewhere, Mindfield has found a new home "in the heart of the festival", while returning favourites such as the Comedy Arena and Mind & Body have welcomes new stages.

"I think we've made really good, really significant changes," says Benn. "Of course, everybody likes things not to change in a way but change can be good, I like change."

Foxy P. Cox and Lady Longbottom in Fish Town at the Electric Picnic Press Day, Tuesday 29 August 2022. Picture: Alf Harvey
Foxy P. Cox and Lady Longbottom in Fish Town. Picture: Alf Harvey.

Welcome to Fish Town

A new area nestled under a canopy of trees is Fish Town, the new incarnation of 'The Jerry Fish Electric Sideshow' which Jerry Fish himself has curated over the last seven years.

Not only that but Jerry’s late-night fun-filled arena has grown to become bigger and better. EP ticket holders will be treated to pop-up stages, a café and The Heart & Anchor bar, with circus, cabaret, burlesque and sideshow performers, as well as the hottest musical acts around.

The showman extraordinaire told RTÉ Lifestyle that he and his performing entourage will welcome all festival goers with open arms:

"Fish Town is for everybody. We're basically... The Jerry Fish Electric Sideshow, we've always since the start, our mantra is 'unity through diversity'. We try to include and make it a very safe space for... the freakier the better, to be honest, that's what we like."

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A sustainable picnic

Speaking on the topic of sustainability, Festival Director Benn told RTÉ Lifestyle that the importance of taking care of the environment is "coming home" and that Picnickers have been "pretty conscientious" about it.

As well as hosting a number of eco-conscious events across the Global Green area and beyond, Benn has big picture plans in the works:

"One of my aims here is to bring mains electricity in to the site so that at least the main stage can run off mains electricity, that is sustainable electricity, off-grid that means that I don't have the transport of the generators, etc."

"It's a constant push for us, really keen sustainability targets. It isn't just about festivals, everybody has to be on that page, really."

Tents ready at the Electric Picnic Press Day, Tuesday 29 August 2022. Picture: Alf Harvey.
Tents ready at the Electric Picnic. Picture: Alf Harvey.

Keeping sustainability in mind, broadcaster Keith Walsh and Michelle Rowley, Senior Brand Manager of Heineken, were on hand to introduce Heineken’s Greener Bar - a new edition to the festival that will be the beer brand's most sustainable activation to date.

"It's built using reuse-led design principles effectively meaning that everything that you see in the bar here today either had a life before or a life after," Rowley told RTÉ Lifestyle.

The plant-filled bar has been developed and designed reusing and upcyling materials that will have a life after the festival and a new system of reusable cups will mean less waste, all resulting in a smaller carbon footprint.

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Outside of the main stages, there will be plenty of performances at smaller areas scattered throughout the arena in the form of brand activations like Heineken such as Casa Bacardi, Topo Chica, and Red Bull's Tropical Jungle which will vitalise music lovers with an eclectic music mix with live DJ's throughout the weekend .

The expansion of Freetown

From the sustainable and the sublime to the shanty, our press tour next led us to the northern fringes of Freetown, leading us through the alleyways and crannies of the metropolis before reaching Six Bars – a warren of "brilliantly impractical" snugs that promise to be "full of charm".

During our time exploring the intimate hideaways, we caught up with Artistic Director Hugo Jellett - who, alongside his wife, Roz Jellett, has created a number of Electric Picnic staples including Salty Dog, Trailer Park, Spike Island, Providencia, and the top-secret BerlinHaus.

Freetown under construction at the Electric Picnic Press Day. Picture: Alf Harvey.
Freetown under construction at the Electric Picnic Press Day. Picture: Alf Harvey.

"It's lovely to be back," Hugo told RTÉ Lifestyle. "My only fear is that we would have lost all of the creatives and the artistry to other industries, to film, to the more sensible working sector, but actually most of them are floating back because there's something absolutely magnetic about working in a festival and knowing that you're making something that goes for three days and then you're back to a green field."

Professor Luke O'Neill, singer Róisín O, Wild Youth's Dave Whelan, and comedian Enya Martin were on hand serving drinks behind these cosy bars during the press event - check out the video below.

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Podcasts, food, comedy & culture

For those who are eager to explore the non-musical aspects of the multifaceted festival, there is an almost endless list of entertainment to be found.

Embrace your inner culture vulture at the Theatre Arena with mesmerising performances from Ballet Ireland, a Belfast ensemble who will bring dance to life with the help of choreographer Christopher Bruce.

The brand-new area will also be home to The Belfast Ensemble: Abomination, a DUP opera (in concert), Xnthony: The Big Gay Ball, Dream Gun: Film Reads, and Dungeons and Naggins.

Herman Kein, Ainoha Segrera, Niamh O'Flannagain and Julia Rayquin from Ballet Ireland performing Rooster by the Rolling Stones at the Electric Picnic Press Day, Tuesday 29 August 2022. Picture: Alf Harvey.
Herman Kein, Ainoha Segrera, Niamh O'Flannagain and Julia Rayquin of Ballet Ireland. Picture: Alf Harvey.

Comedy fans can find headliners such as Dylan Moran, David O'Doherty, Jason Byrne, Neil Delamere, Deirdre O'Kane, Kevin McGahern, Chris Kent, Emma Doran as well as Northern Irish comics Diona Doherty and Shane Todd (who recently opened for US star Kevin Hart) in the brand new Comedy Arena.

Podcast fanatics can lose themselves in the story telling of some of country's most popular podcasters in the brand new Ah, Hear NOW! stage in the new and improved Mindfield arena.

Elsewhere, food lovers can dine out at the Theatre of Food or book themselves into a delicious meal at The Hothouse, Electric Picnic's only waiter-service restaurant.

If you fancy a dip during the weekend, be sure to pack your togs and visit the lake. The lake is the perfect way for Olympic swimmers or the doggy-paddlers to see a whole new side to the festival. Located in the idyllic surroundings of the Stradbally Hall estate, the lake will be a thriving hub of excitement and will be well signposted from the Jimi Hendrix campsite.

Little Picnic

Little Picnic

For those bringing little ones to Stradbally this weekend, be sure to enjoy the offerings of Little Picnic - a colourful, child-friendly area from the team behind Kaleidoscope Family Festival, designed specifically with families in mind.

The area is open to anyone attending the festival with children. If you don't have a Family Camping wristband, Little Picnic wristbands are available to pick up onsite. Click here for more info.

For more info on the Electric Picnic festival, visit https://www.electricpicnic.ie/