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Melanie Morris: No campsites or smelly portaloos for me... I'm going posh at the Picnic

Firstly, let me declare an interest... I LOVE Electric Picnic. It's the highlight of my year and something I look forward to and plan with relish. I've been to all six Picnics and look forward to this weekend making it my seventh.

I've 'done' the Picnic every which way. I've gone as a daytripper, camped, and crashed in someone else's tent when mine no longer became habitable. But with age and experience, I've come to realise over the years, that while some might save for a big holiday, or an expensive watch, I'd rather blow the budget on doing Electric Picnic in style. I like to go posh at the Picnic.

It started when I discovered there was a five- star hotel not so far away. It seems all the headline artists, the chin-stroking opinion formers and designer celebrities who attend Electric Picnic check in to The Heritage Hotel in Killenard. This is possibly a lot to do with the original hotel manager, Donagh Davern, who had a great sense of occasion and marvellous eye for detail.


His team prepare the most perfect pre- festival drinks and meals, and serve them in front of a roaring fire before Donagh would hop into the hotel limo and ferry us to Stradbally. The drop-off point is the back of the main stage, just an easy stroll away from the teepee'd Picnic Garden VIP area. Now, that's what you call door-to-door service.

And when it's time to return, cars are dispatched and on arrival back at the bar (oops, I think I mean hotel), the porters take our wellies and hose them down, ready for action again the next day once we've had breakfast, the papers and a massage or steam in The Heritage's amazing spa. Now, that's what I call service.

On checking in to The Heritage two years ago, Donagh handed my friend Triona and I the keys to one of the hotel's two-bedroomed penthouses, and warned us to keep the noise down (some chance, with about 2,000sq ft to privately party in), because there was 'an old lady next door'. Thankfully, we didn't need to worry, the old lady he was referring to was Grace Jones.

It made a nice difference from year two, when I pitched my tent, got lost, and by the time I'd gathered my bearings again, discovered someone else had moved in and taken over. Those who opt for posh camping, or 'glamping' also have the right idea. I've been to parties in an amazing assortment of yurts, teepees and mini-marquees; some even have champagne bars, private showers and a concierge service. Canvas takes on a totally different hue when you pay the premium.

Going posh also means I can dress to impress. I can bring my entire wardrobe with me if I want, safe in the knowledge I don't have to hump it over fields to a campsite. Whoever said festival chic was easy never tried to pack for three days, three nights, four seasons and every eventuality? And that's before starting on the accessories.

When it comes to eating and drinking, it's easy to go posh with the nosh. The vendors are all from the artisan end of the food spectrum, Ditto the drinks... A visit to the Bacardi B-Bar and there's a full cocktail list on offer. Nab a wristband from a trendy young in-the-know PR and you've access to a special backstage area with, what they refer to as 'the best loos at the Picnic' (a precious boast), and a Nando's BBQ going strong by day. Thumping sounds and plenty of beautiful people to watch completes the picture.


And that's before you get to see an act. The main stage at Stradbally is overlooked by a very comfortable raised area in the Picnic Garden - a place I've seen Rachel Allen serve up a 'proper' picnic to her family, on a rug and from a wicker hamper. There's more designer grub, a full bar serving until late and, gasp, fully flushing lavatories. With paper.

Of course, you have to experience the full Electric Picnic offer -- from the drag queens at This Is Pop Baby to the cultural melting pot of The Body Soul area (dawn hot tub, anyone?). The Chai Wallah tea tents, silent disco and forest raves keep you up all night. Oh, and bands, don't forget the headliners. With a good weather forecast, the days will be long, and I'll be up way past my bedtime. The extra luxuries come as the reward.

See today's Dubliner for your ultimate Electric Picnic guide