Electric Picnic 2023: How to take part in Trailer Park – Think of the coolest thing to do with a caravan

Gemma Tipton offers a beginner’s guide to taking up a new cultural pursuit

Away from the Electric Picnic festival’s main stage next weekend, Trailer Park is the chaotic kingdom of the miraculous and the marvellous, created from souped-up or torn-up caravans, horseboxes and all manner of cars and vans. There has even been a forklift. So how do you get to take part? Salty Dog’s Hugo Jellett has the answers.

Oh! I remember that one where you walked through the caravan and into a snowy wonderland

That was Narnia. Other Jellett favourites include Caravanaoke, with “20 people squashed into a caravan on spring coils to sing Take on Me at full volume, but we have had real-estate agents selling ‘bijou one-beds’, a funeral wake, a Trump rally, a deprogramming laboratory, a seagull nest, a nine-hole crazy-golf course and a worthy endeavour called Who Let the Dads Out.”

The It all kicked off in 2013-14, with a “wobbly modular home, balanced like a see-saw on a shipping container, with the bands playing up in the sky”. From there the team realised that this could be a real creative outlet for garage enthusiasts.

I’m buzzing with ideas already

Hold your horsepowers a moment. Electric Picnic will announce the competition for next year’s Trailer Park when this year’s festival is done and dusted. Then you’ll find an online application form; there are cash grants, ranging from €400 to €3,000, to make it happen. In all, 20 or 30 ideas get picked by a panel led by artistic director Roz Jellett. Applying is “wildly simple: a paragraph or two, some sketches and visuals, and a budget”. Alongside the grant, successful applicants get up to nine tickets to the festival to host the stage or intervention.

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Do I have to be an artist, though?

“You do have to be a little odd,” Jellett says. “Apart from that: anyone. Some are architects, or theatre people, or carpenters, or exuberant and humorous sorts, or a bored automotive engineer, or an art or design student and their classmates.” He adds that they do seem to get a lot of applications from Wexford.

What’s the timeline?

“Dream up an idea in September. Find a caravan in January, work on it between April and August. Arrive a week before Electric Picnic next year and do your finishing touches,” Jellett says. Simple. “What you design and build doesn’t have to be roadworthy (it helps), but is has to be safe. We will help with advice, and the festival has safety experts who come and advise and inspect.”

What about common mistakes? What are they not looking for?

“Everyone wants a DJ in their caravan or to have a chill-out area. And each year we seem to get a rebirthing caravan ... The other pitfall is that someone might be a great designer or builder but a terrible host, so getting a good crew together is essential.” Storytelling helps. Part of the joy of Trailer Park, and of the Salty Dog stage itself, is the backstories dreamed up by the makers.

Any sneak peeks for this year?

“Yonder is a bus loosely based on Ken Kesey’s 1963 enterprise Further,” Jellett says, alluding to the road trip that the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest took across the United States in a psychedelically painted 1939 Harvester schoolbus. “Ellebanna is an otherworldly Ibiza-based dance troupe who live in a bulbous globular lair, and Craggy Island has finally found its way to Stradbally.”

Applications will open in mid-September, when additional information will be posted on the Electric Picnic website

Gemma Tipton

Gemma Tipton

Gemma Tipton contributes to The Irish Times on art, architecture and other aspects of culture