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Why I won't be returning to Electric Picnic - in two words, David McWilliams

I ATTENDED what was probably my last Electric Picnic at the weekend.

My unhappiest memories have all been at outdoor festivals. My first to see Bob Dylan at Slane in 1984 (on the basis that this was the last time he would play in Ireland) was as grim as anything you'll read from the First World War poets.

And despite seeing many delighted "music fans", as RTE's Ciaran Mullooly still quaintly calls them, I was somewhat lost among the revellers at Stradbally.

I had what you might call a 'moment'.


It was on Saturday night in the Mindfield area where there is no music but you can hear acts from the various stages.

I had been scheduled to appear on a panel discussion about the media in the Leviathan tent.

I heard myself being announced from the stage and was ushered importantly into the wings. I nodded to the seasoned old pro Eamon McCann, who stood nearby, as if to say, 'hey, another panel, huh?' to another old pro.


I was preparing to bound on to the stage, when I heard a name that didn't sound like mine being called.

And when the host, economist David McWilliams, then began the show, I was gently ushered out of the side of the tent. I felt what sounded like my heart go ping as I dry-mouthed the words: "No, that's perfectly all right. I'll just go for a little stroll."

I was outside. Not even an insider among the outsiders inside giving out about the insiders. The reasons for this abrupt and rare act of ginger-on-ginger hostility or harmless oversight need not concern us here.

It did, however, help demonstrate the efficiency of Orchardomics as I immediately thirsted for a cider-based beverage to cool the humiliation.

But back to the 'moment'.


So there I was standing in the middle of a field in Laois, shamed to my cockles and from a nearby stage came the music of Orchestral Manoevures in the Dark. Joan of Arc, if I'm not mistaken, and I may have been for I was welling up a little.

Because I was back in 1982 at a school disco held in one of the many sports halls of Blackrock College but where youngsters from neighbouring and 'lowlier schools' were welcome to mix with their betters.

I remember emerging from the disco, as from the tent, drenched in confusion as the girl I assiduously pogoed around all night went off with a flash, floppy-haired 'rock' guy.

A guy who even then was probably telling his schoolfriends' parents to take their money out of property. Oh yes. David ruddy McWilliams.

David ruddy McWilliams.