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'Terrified' locals want Electric Picnic to be cancelled because of Covid risk, councillor claims

'Older people in the area are terrified at the very mention of Electric Picnic,' Cllr Paschal McEvoy says
Locals say the 70,000 planned for the event are just too young.

Locals say the 70,000 planned for the event are just too young.

Eugene Masterson

Locals in Stradbally are up in arms over plans to hold Electric Picnic there in September - making it increasingly unlikely to go ahead.

Experts fear most of the 70,000 crowd expected at the event would be in their 20s and late teens and highly unlikely to be vaccinated by then.

The Forever Young event, planned for Co Kildare from Sept 10 to 12, stands a better chance of getting the all-clear.

That will feature Marti Pellow, Paul Young, Jimmy Somerville, OMD and the Boomtown Rats among others, so the 12,000 crowd would be mainly over 40 and vaccinated. Ireland's first open air gig since the start of the pandemic was in Dublin's Iveagh Gardens on Thursday evening, when just 500 people enjoyed James Vincent McMorrow in specially marked-off sections of the site.

A decision on Electric Picnic, which has ­already sold out, will be made by the end of this month, as it needs two months to set up.

A number of other open air music festivals planned for later this year have already been cancelled due to Covid, including Longitude in Dublin and Body and Soul in Westmeath.

The Forbidden Fruit festival in Dublin's Kilmainham and the Rose of Tralee were also called off.

It is still unclear whether the All Together Now festival in Co Waterford, due for the August bank holiday weekend, and featuring Underworld among others, will go ahead.

Electric Picnic organisers have still to announce what acts are due, but looking at similar events planned in the UK at the same time, among those mooted are Gerry Cinnamon, James, Stereolab, Example, Sean Paul, Future and Skepta.

But a councillor in Stradbally insists locals do not want Electric Picnic, planned for September 3 to 5, to go ahead this year

"Older people in the area are terrified at the very mention of it," Fianna Fáil Cllr Paschal McEvoy tells the Sunday World.

"We would rather give it a miss this year as it's better to be safe than sorry," he says.

"The Ploughing Championships were meant to be three miles down the road in Ratheniska and that has been cancelled." He admits it would be a tough decision to cancel this year's festival.

"A lot of money is raised for local charities, ­particularly St Vincent de Paul, from the event," he reveals.

"There are also a lot of local people at it and it brings a lot of money into the town."

But he wants the festival cancelled for a second year in succession.

"We need another year to, hopefully, have brought this Covid to a place where we can be comfortable and safe," he stresses.

"This crowd of 70,000 would be ­coming from all corners of the country and could potentially be bringing the virus to our town, and not only that, they could be catching it from others at the event and bringing it back to their own hometowns.

"To hold it in early September is not safe in my opinion and is too much too soon."

There was no response from Electric Picnic organisers from the Sunday World asking for an update on their plans.

But Junior Minister Seán Fleming, who is based in Laois, has been told by the organisers that the event will not take place on a reduced capacity basis.

Minister Fleming met Melvin Benn, the boss of Festival Republic, which runs the event, and was told it had sold out and it would not be financially viable to have less than its 70,000 capacity.

"He said they need to know by the end of June, to allow a two-month lead-in to confirm the acts and prepare the site," Minister Fleming added.

Some locals who took to Facebook were mostly in favour of cancelling this year's festival.

"Not a hope this should go ahead, makes no sense at all," Lisa Buggy fumes.

"I hope the town comes together and makes sure it doesn't happen this year."

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