Eat to the Beat: The Lost Picnic Music Festival

The old music festival format needs to take some tips from the Lost Picnic, writes Alice Gilbert.

The Hollywood style sign for the Lost Picnic music festival. A large beach ball is in the background.
Image: Jessica McGuinness

I have to admit, when I first heard about the premise of the Lost Picnic, I wasn’t sure the format would work – thousands of people sitting down to picnics while watching musical acts all aimed at the 20-something demographic? Surely it would either erupt into chaos as excited patrons trampled on picnic baskets, or else fizzle out with a lack of energy. But when I caught the train down to Sydney with a few friends on March 23, we were pleasantly surprised.

As we made our way through the ticket checkpoint, the large Hollywood-style ‘Lost Picnic’ letters came into view, as well as a giant novelty beach ball and some badminton courts (because every music festival needs a badminton court). Stretched out before us between the single stage and the shade of the trees were hundreds of picnic blankets, upon which a chilled audience sat sipping wine and eating lunch.

We chose a spot, set up our own picnic blanket and laid out our small feast of chips, dips and cheese we’d bought from the supermarket earlier in the day. There was an assortment of fancy pre-order hampers available to pick up at the venue that many had purchased, but being poor uni students we had chosen the cheaper option. Beer, wine and spirits were also available from the bar, of which we immediately took advantage (in a responsible manner, of course).

The family-friendly atmosphere… one boy, who could not have been older than four, was skipping and dancing with a parent directly in front of the stage, looking like joy personified.

The first act, Sons of the East, were already treating the 3000 odd patrons to their lively indie-folk melodies, as a small group gathered in front of the stage, clapping and jigging along to the banjo.

One of the things that struck me was the variation in the age of the audience and the family-friendly atmosphere. One young boy, who could not have been older than four, was skipping and dancing with a parent directly in front of the stage, looking like joy personified. Another thing that struck me was the absence of the loud, shirtless drunks that short people like me typically have to avoid being trampled by at the average festival.

It happily lacked the usual confusion and chaos of other festivals.

With each act the number of people getting up to dance increased, but it never got uncomfortably crowded. Many chose to remain seated, continuing to eat and drink and still getting a good view of the show. The mood was easy-going and, while people were having a lot of fun, it happily lacked the usual confusion and chaos of other festivals.

Washington, Image: Jessica McGuinness
Washington, Image: Jessica McGuinness

By the time Washington came on and gave us a performance to remember, the mounting crowd, now well-fed and content, were dancing away with carefree enthusiasm to the artist’s infectious and unique jazzy-rock tunes.

Its success should indicate a gap in the market that will no doubt now be seized on by other event organisers.

The format of the festival created a rare kind of lively fun that everyone could enjoy, young and old. Its success should indicate a gap in the market that will no doubt now be seized on by other event organisers, and at the very least see a return of the Lost Picnic in 2015, which I for one will be attending.

Images: Jessica McGuinness