COUNCILLORS in Laois have sent a clear message to organisers of the Electric Picnic Festival to listen to their concerns if they want it to go ahead next year.
Laois County Council has the final say on allowing the event to go ahead, as it signs off on a plan that involves health and safety, security, road traffic management, local access, on-site sanitation, environmental issues and other conditions associated with the three-day event.
At a recent meeting of the local authority, cllr Aishling Moran sought reassurance on some aspects associated with the festival.
She said: “The concern that I want to highlight is that of the safety of the thousands of people that visit Laois every year to attend this festival.
“A bigger festival does not necessarily mean a better festival. At Electric Picnic 2018 and 2019, crowd control has become a serious concern – as those who were caught in any one of the number of crushes can attest.
“I am calling on this council to ensure that the safety of those attending the Electric Picnic comes first by considering increasing facilities such as toilets, showers, access to food and drink, water taps, litter bins and extra security, a garda presence and fully-trained security staff who are familiar with the geography of all areas within the Electric Picnic perimeter.
“Camp sites with dedicated spaces to safely erect tents. Currently there are no walkways between tents in the general camp sites. Most tents touch one another. In the event of a fire in one tent, the spread to surrounding tents is potentially catastrophic.”
Cllr Moran said that she was also calling for the introduction of a litter and camping bond/deposit.
“Each tent owner is assigned a numbered area and has responsibility for removing the tent and litter on exiting the site to ensure the bond deposit is returned. I also want the reintroduction of reusable beakers/environmentally-friendly containers/packaging for all food and drink vendors. The organisers could increase the use of green energy such as using solar power to power the stages – this is done in other festivals around the world.”
She also said that penalties should be imposed on those found urinating in public.
“An increase in toilet facilities should help here. But security staff/gardaí should not tolerate this behaviour. Is it against the law to urinate in public. It would not be tolerated on the streets of Stradbally.”
Cllr Moran also said: “It is against the law for children to be in a pub after 9pm because we don’t want them around alcohol and drunk adults. Why then can a child be in a crowd of drunk people at 1am in the morning?”
She said: “I ask you to consider our (Laois County Council) responsibility in granting planning permission to ensure that Electric Picnic 2020 is a safe and sustainable celebration of culture, arts, music and fun in the heart of Laois.”
In reply to her comments, council management said: “Laois County Council has committed to working with the festival organisers in the coming months to address health and safety concerns raised by statutory agencies and the public. This approach has been adopted irrespective of the overall numbers attending the event.
“The festival organisers are required to submit to Laois County Council an application for an event licence at least 13 weeks prior to such an event. It is a statutory requirement that an event management pan, which includes health and safety measures, is submitted with this licence application.
“The engagement over the coming months with Festival Republic and Laois County Council and the feedback from statutory agencies and the public will inform the event management plan for Electric Picnic 2020.”
Cllr Noel Tuohy said: “Criticising the Picnic is not a sin, you know. It is a great event, but it can do better and it’s important that they address these safety issues.
“When I made some simple suggestions a few years ago, I was shot down right away. The Picnic can be improved and these things highlighted should be looked at, as the day we stop listening to criticism is a bad day for us all.”