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Day the music died Electric Picnic organisers 'extremely disappointed' at council's refusal to grant festival licence

The council said the decision was made following the 'most up-to-date' health advice from the HSE

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The Electric Picnic festival in Stradbally, County Laois attracts 70,000 fans (Niall Carson/PA)

The Electric Picnic festival in Stradbally, County Laois attracts 70,000 fans (Niall Carson/PA)

The Electric Picnic festival in Stradbally, County Laois attracts 70,000 fans (Niall Carson/PA)

The organisers of Electric Picnic have said they, “together with all the fans”, are extremely disappointed that Laois County Council have refused a licence for this year’s festival. 

The music festival had been due to take place from September 24 to 26 at Stradbally Hall Estate.

The council said the decision was made following the “most up-to-date” health advice from the HSE.

Covid-19 rules currently limit numbers at the majority of organised outdoor events to 500 at venues with capacity in excess of 5,000.

While a number of test events have been staged, Ireland’s live music and entertainment sector remains effectively closed down due to coronavirus regulations.

This morning the organisers said the decision had been made, “despite our proposal that everyone attending the event, including ticket holders, staff and artists, would have to be fully vaccinated and registered in advance for Department of Health contact tracing”.

“To see Scotland, a country with a similar population and virtually identical vaccine rollout and uptake as our own, only to announce on Tuesday that they were easing restrictions and allowing events such as TRNSMT Festival in Glasgow go ahead in September makes this decision even more difficult to accept,” they said in a statement.

“This is a huge blow and set back to our entire sector, which was mandated to close on the March 12, 2020 (over 500 days ago) and such a decision now means the further loss of employment for over 3,000 people, who had clung to the hope that Electric Picnic would bring an end to their period of hardship.”

The organisers have now called upon all members of Government to interrupt their summer recess and immediately issue reopening guidelines.

“(This is what) we have been calling for, with a reopening date for the sector of August 16 on a phased basis, building to the implementation of no restrictions from September 1, 2021 onwards.”

They also thanked fans for their patience and the community of Stradbally and the people of Laois “for their huge ongoing support during this difficult time."

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“We will now review our options and be in contact directly with all ticket holders over the next week,” they added.

While the announcement came as a blow to the organisers and fans, there are still hopes that a smaller version of Electric Picnic could still go ahead this year.

Fianna Fáil's spokesperson for the arts, Deputy Niamh Smyth said she hopes a compromise can be reached.

“I know that the organisers of the Electric Picnic had originally planned for 70,000 participants,” she said.

“They are phenomenal numbers in terms of the fact that we are in a global pandemic and we're certainly not out of the woods.

“(But) I would hope that there would be room for manoeuvre there in terms of the authorities and what they can allow and also the numbers that can be allowed.

“So I will hope this would not mean the end of the dream of seeing Electric Picnic happening in the country this year.”

Earlier Cllr Conor Bergin of Laois County Council told RTE: “We’ve had Electric Picnic in Laois for the last 14 years and it has grown into one of the largest outdoor events in the country.

“We love having Electric Picnic in Laois, it is a hugely beneficial event for the county, for tourism.

“But unfortunately Laois County Council has decided not to allow the licence to go ahead this year on the basis of clear and unambiguous health advice from the HSE.”

Earlier this week, the organisers of Electric Picnic had expressed confidence that the event could go ahead in September.

Managing director of Festival Republic Melvin Benn said he based his optimism on the fact no-one in Government had told him the event would not be allowed.

Mr Benn told RTE Radio One: “100pc fully expecting the Electric Picnic to be going ahead on the basis that 100pc nobody has told me I won’t be able to and the speed of vaccination rollout in Ireland, if it was submitted to the Tokyo Olympics, would win gold.

“We are very confident that it would happen.”

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