Picnic Time Again

If you really want to dip your toe in zeitgeisty waters you could do worse than get yourself down to Stradbally the first weekend of September every year. There is not a strand of popular and emergent culture worth talking about that doesn’t eke out a forum for itself at the Electric Picnic.

Naturally the music is the main course but peripheral to it you will find all manner of interesting side dishes that arguably contribute just as much to the flavour of the festival.

Global Green At Electric Picnic

Becoming a stand alone attraction all of its own is the Global Green area.  This pop-up Ecovillage is a diverse community of creative types, activists, artists, musicians, foodies, hackers, social entrepreneurs and slam poets all brought together by Cultivate, the sustainability collective now based in Cloughjordan Ecovillage in Co. Tipperary. You can sample the authentic and organic food, check out a new low key musical act or get involved in a heated discussion on radical ideas for a community led future.

On hand to extol the virtues of local food are the farmers that nurture the soil and cultivate the vegetables, the seed-savers, the craft bakers, the cooks and young food entrepreneurs, the campaigners fighting for global food solidarity and sovereignty, the local food activists helping us appreciate what Ireland has to offer and closing the loop at the end of the lineare the compostersturning what we waste back to soil.

Pertinently,  part of Global Green this year was The (h)Edge School  which hosted discussions on two areas we have mentioned recently which are of particular relevance to the role of the horticulturist; food security and climate change. We also heard from a group of activists planning for the climate summit in Paris later this year.

Totally off-grid, the Greencraftarea celebrates and teaches the ancient techniques and crafts of our wilder forefathers. The area is very popular amongst the younger festival goers which makes the new thinking about ethics and sustainability that such teaching inspires all the more crucial. Curated by Nic and Marie Piper and brought to life by master craftsmen and women, it is the place to go to learn the basics of a traditional skill, get hands-on with natural materials and make something beautiful and personal to take home. The village uses no electricity – everything is hand or solar powered and all materials are sourced ethically making it sustainable and environmentally stable.

On Saturday morning in the Body and Soul arena I listened to an Australian band called The Formidable Vegetable Sound System whose entire catalogue consists of songs about permaculture and sustainability. Sounds abominable but believe it or not it was quite good. Mindfield is a whole other realm of the cerebral where the great and the good of literature, science, entertainment and politics come to trade tuppence worths.

From a design point of view, the Picnic is a great place to pick up ideas. There are always multiple examples of new or innovative use of materials; an interesting way to fence off or screen an area, to subtly keep the crowd flowing in a particular direction, an eye catching sculpture. The landscape itself in the Body and Soul is always inspiring. The Soul Kids area usually has a nice array of naturalised play elements.This year, for my two youngest, the big hit was a a desert island scene with wood carved palm trees and parrots and a re-creation of a beach in wood shavings. We have touched on how much more fulfilling it is for children to play with tactile, natural materials. Soul Kids can attest to this.

All these things complement each other; environmental conscientiousness, music, art, design, science, recycling, frugality, sustainability, ethics, tolerance. They’re all here; the glimpses of how the world should work but which lamentably remain the butt of mainstream jokes.  

It’s 2015, what’s still so funny about peace, love and understanding?

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