Electric Picnic Music Festival- IRELAND

Electric Picnic Music Festival is a 3 day outdoor music festival in Stradbaly, Ireland that took place august 29-31. The festival is known for emphasis on public art and includes poets, comedians, the circus, a ferris wheel, movie theater and other elements not usually seen at these outdoor concerts.  First international project for team BambooDNA.

Wow- the story starts with bad news.   The container we had shipped to Ireland from Columbia full of 400 large bamboo poles got stuck in customs in Rotterdam and would not arrive in time for the festival.  This amount of material was our most ambitious yet- even more than Coachella.  NONE of this material would be arriving.  All we have is our minds, bodies, and a few hand tools.

These bamboo sculpture projects have always been an exercise in flexibility.  Something always goes drastically wrong and we have to improvise.  The team has gotten used to it and gained confidence in the face of adversity to the point where when we heard that the bamboo was not arriving we merely shrugged and started to set up camp.  No problem, well figure something out.  Not much sense of panic in team bamboo!

We set out harvesting materials from around the site.  The land was private so with permission from the landowner we spent the first two days looking for and gathering material.  Its hard to believe that a normal family lives here.  They have 5 acres of roofs to maintain on the property!

First we erected the three main columns.  The plan is to build a giant willow ring on the ground.  The rings was tied with a series of clove hitches and reinforced with willow weaving. Led by Lynda the weaving team leader, the long skinny willows were painstakingly woven in one by one.   We were to then lift the entire ring up solely with human power.  Our resident rigger Brandon can do amazing things with rope and pulleys.  These complicated lifts would not be possible without him.  Of course, Brandon was out of commission with back spasms so he had to direct us to do all the work.

The first lift was a failure.  The forces exerted on the ring when we lifted pushed the inside oculus together and we lost the form.  After lowering the ring once again we fortified the center with a willow ring and tried again.  The second lift was a success.  Now, we started constructing a second smaller ring to go above the first one.  One of our irish volunteers Tom and I scrapped the weaving technique we used for the first ring and instead built two large wreath like structures with willow.  We strapped the offshooting willow branches to these two rings and hoped for the best.  LIFT!

A crowd gathered and laughed at how absurd this lift looked.  Kevin did an amazing job of manuevering the second ring until Ryan and Jenn could secure it into place.  Once the second ring was in the crew up there could relax.  Looks like a nice place to hang out!

Because our material didnt arrive this project changed in scale dramatically.  Though not nearly as big as we had originally planned, the new sculpture we built involved a lot more detail work and craft than we usually get a chance to do.  Our local willow artist Lusi and her teenage son Ollie spearheaded a team building lanterns.  Incredibly complex, these structures probably took a full day each for one person.  Marisha led the design and building of benches made out of solid wood slabs.  Our young Aussie Dana led all things related to sledgehammers and axes.  On the last day we all carved totem poles, leaving our signature touch on the project.

Not having our bamboo was actually a good thing.  We learned to work with a new material and learned to work in a new way.  The spirit of Electric Picnic is more about craft than the american music festivals where prefabricated truss structures and tents dominate.  We were true to the spirit this year due to our adversity.

The structure was quite successful as a hang out area during the concert. The benches provided unorthodox sitting angles for conversation and the structure lit up pretty nice at night. We didnt have our usual lighting guru/mad scientist/pyrotechnician, Alan so we settled for floodlamps that the festival provided.

We all learned alot from this project.  Being flexible, staying calm and positive in the face of adversity and just doing the best you can with what you have were all good lessons.  All good things must come to an end.  Teardown was easy.  The site looked apocalyptic with all the trash around.  We burned what we could.  No attachments….

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