Apr 09, 2024

Electric Picnic 2023: Gender balance difficult due to fewer women headliners, says festival director

Electric Picnic would love to have an equal gender split for headline acts but “there are less female headliners generally around”, the festival’s director has said.

The annual music and arts festival will return to the Stradbally Estate in Co Laois this weekend, with 70,000 attendees due to descend on the town. This year’s line-up includes Billie Eilish, Niall Horan, The Killers, Fred Again and The Script, among others. Of the six main headline acts, only one is a woman.

Speaking to media in advance of the festival kicking off later this week, Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic, which also runs the Reading and Leeds festivals among others, defended the line-up, adding that it was often dependent on touring schedules.

“We look at it [gender balance] all of the time and obviously we’d love to have 50/50, we’d be delighted with it. We’d love if it was five women and one man,” he said.

“But ultimately we have to work within artists that are available to us and the reality is there are less female headliners generally around, and we are keen to have perhaps the biggest in the world at Electric Picnic.”

Irish band The Academic perform at a preview of Electric Picnic on Tuesday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minna Kavanagh and Suzannah Raben setting up the Piano Bar in Trailer Park on Tuesday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The organisers of the event announced this year that disposable vapes will be banned due to their impact on the environment.

However, Mr Benn admitted that it would be difficult to police, and while attendees are encouraged not to bring the items, the ban will be most stringent for vendors.

“It would be impossible to ban everyone bringing them – the ban is primarily on retail. These disposable vapes are smaller than a matchbox, many of them. They are very difficult to recycle and most people put them in the general waste stream,” he said.

“Therefore we’ve taken the position to discourage people from bringing them, as much as we can, to respect the Electric Picnic values and to respect the environment.”

[ Dry weather overall likely for Electric Picnic weekend ]

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Croí is a new addition to the Electric Picnic site this year, which during the day will be a hub of wellness, movement and “conscious connection”, while at night there will be a fire pit around which punters can dance the night away.

Emma West, a sound bath practitioner who will be working at the festival, said there is growing demand for wellness-type stages at these sorts of events due to the hustle and bustle of modern life. “Sound and vibration has been around forever but people are starting to realise in this new age that we can use it to relax. It’s really become popular and it’s amazing to see,” she said.

Kiera Julia Ryan and Megan O'Malley during the Electric Picnic preview day at Stradbally, Co Laois on Tuesday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

An aerial view of the Electric Picnic festival site at Stradbally in Co Laois. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Meanwhile, Hugo Jellett, the creative director behind the Trailer Park and Salty Dog stage among others, said the fringe events and stages are “more important” than who is on the main stage.

“Most of the activities at Electric Picnic are professionally built but Trailer Park is an opportunity for kitchen-table ideas to become a reality,” he said.

“I think the fringe elements are more important than the main-stage acts. You probably know what you’re going to hear there, and there’s euphoria there, but you need to find your curiosity. You will find one thing you won’t find at the main stage: laughter.”

Weather conditions over the weekend will be “as good as can be expected during this time of the year”, with some risk of showers on Friday, according to Met Éireann.

Temperatures of 19 or 20 degrees are expected on Friday as Billie Eilish and Niall Horan take the main stage, with 22-degree temperatures on Saturday when Tom Odell and Paolo Nutini are due to perform. Sunday will see temperatures of about 22 degrees, so the weather is never going to let you down as Rick Astley takes the stage.