The Jacket off your Back

So, there’s a video doing the rounds. You know the one. It’s been clogging up my Facebook newsfeed since Monday and, honestly, I’m pig sick of it.

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/charity-finds-most-tents-left-at-electric-picnic-unusable-1.2781569

Kevin Kelly, organiser of the charity the Jacket off Your Back, posted the video in question which has since been viewed more than 242,000 times and has well over 1,000 shares. In it, it shows one of the campsites at last weekend’s Electric Picnic. The revellers have long since cleared out leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. Two lonely volunteers are slowly folding a tent. The caption? “Omg the smell of piss, drink and muck is unreal, it looks like Idomeni without the refugee”.

Stand by for a serious rant.

There are several things that I take issue with here. First and foremost, in this age of gender-neutral, refugee friendly, sex positive, PC gone mad-ness how DARE this man compare the EP campsite to Idomeni. The refugees in this Greek camp are fleeing war, famine, disease and disaster. At worst, the crew in Stradbally are slinking home with sore heads and soggy wellies.

Secondly, the ingratitude is staggering. He’s biting the very hand that feeds him. In the Irish Times article above, Kelly claims that “I didn’t mean to offend anyone – these are people we will be relying on for support in coming years”. In total they collected over 300 tents and several thousand sleeping bags which will be distributed to homeless people all over Ireland. Last time I checked, 300 is better than none and I’m confident if I was sleeping on the side of the road, I’d be very glad of a slightly less-than-perfect tent or sleeping bag come December.

But what galls me the most are the comments on the video. Sure, there’s no denying the place is like a war zone but let’s look at a few things before we go bashing the “filthy young people” wandering around “ripped to their tits on drink and drugs” and the “disposible society” that we live in.

Firstly, I wonder how many of the people commenting on the video were actually in Stradbally at the weekend and how many are just keyboard warriors looking for another bandwagon to hop on? Thought so. For anyone who was actually at Picnic they will know how poorly organized it was in terms of waste disposal/recycling/general eco-frendliness. Granted there is an eco-friendly campsite, but what about the others? When we arrived and set up camp, a girl wandered over offering us a clear plastic bag for cans and recyclables. One bag. Among 10 people. While we’re not full blown alcoholics, that bag was filled well before midnight on Friday. And where were we even supposed to put these bags of rubbish? The bin, I hear you say. What bin was this I wonder? The food outlets in the campsite barely had a bin not to mind any kind of skip that people could lob bags of rubbish into. And for the dedicated do-gooders, I don’t know too many bus drivers who would allow a sopping, stinking tent back onto their bus, do you?

If people are slow to take their black bin to the kerb outside their house, what makes you think they’ll drag bags of recyclables across 3 campsites? Picnic could take their cue from Townlands Carnival. For every two bags of rubbish filled and returned to the recycle point, punters were given €10 back on the cost of their ticket. Punters, not volunteers. If they incentivise recycling, I guarantee the uptake would be huge. People snarkily commenting about the lads over at the Euros and the videos of them picking up cans need to wise up too. Sure, they were doing their bit but so were hundreds, if not thousands last weekend in Stradbally. They just didn’t go around making videos for the world to see. Camping in a mucky field, picking up soggy sleeping bags just doesn’t attract the same headlines as beer bottles in Bordeaux.

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Photo taken in Charlie Chaplin Campsite.

Secondly, the weather forecast last weekend was atrocious and boy did it deliver. It lashed rain for most of Saturday and much of Sunday night too. The walkways through the campsites and leading towards the main arenas were knee deep mud in many places and anyone foolish to camp within the vicinity of a walkway woke to a deluge of mud and flood. Naturally, these tents were abandoned well before the campsites closed. For the organisers part, they had plenty of warning that the weather was going to be less than ideal. What action did they take? None. At Indiependence, a plastic path was laid running right through the campsites all the way to the main stage. At Life Festival, boggy areas were covered with bark and at Knockanstockan sawdust saw off the worst of the weather. Electric Picnic tickets are by far the most expensive of the lot and yet, not one thing was put in place.

My next point is the toilets. Althought they were miles better than previous years, one toilet block per campsite (especially the bigger campsites like Jimi Hendrix and Oscar Wilde) is simply not sufficient. I would dread to think about the bum to toilet ratio over the course of the weekend. Honestly, if I had the apparatus to pee standing up you better bet I’d be going by the nearest fence rather than the toilet blocks.

And as for Kelly’s comments that the place smelled of “piss, drink and muck”, cop on. You put 55,000 people in a field cutting loose for a weekend, what do you expect? Eau de Parfum?

I was at last weekend’s festival and apart from one lonely a4 poster asking for tents to be donated to Syrian refugees I didn’t see one other single bit of advertising. If Kevin Kelly was serious about collecting his donations, he should have started advertising months ago. In all the coverage in the run up to the weekend I knew all about the stage times, the line ups, the new look Rave in the Woods and had heard all about the secret room in the Heineken Sound Atlas but I did not once see mention of a tent donation scheme. There was definitely room for a Jacket off your Back tab on the ticker tape running along the head of the Electric Picnic website. What was to stop him highlighting the issue long before any wellies set foot in Stradbally? Was it Roy Keane that said fail to prepare, prepare to fail?

But what irritates me most is the smug older people up on their soapboxes. It’s easy to say that it’s all the young people who were previously burning out tents at the shit show that was Oxegen that are the problem but the demographic of Electric Picnic includes plenty of families, pensioners and parents alike. You can’t tar us all with the one brush. We brought our tents home, dried them out and will dust them off and reuse them for festival season 2017 as did most of the campers around us, young and old alike. I’d like to see some pictures of Feile Trip to Tipp in 1990s or Puck Fair in Killorglin and see how clean they were left when the crowds left. I have my suspicions that we have not moved on as far as we’d like to think.  Electric Picnic has carefully cultivated an image of being an artsy, ethical, family-friendly festival but there’s no denying that this is no longer strictly the case. I think that the organisers need to take a look at how they can tackle the issues highlighted in the video and, in the meantime, Leave Those Kids Alone.

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