A glimpse at Picnic09


The tables at Amsterdam’s annual Picnic, a multi-session festival, brim with highbrow speakers. The international platform for creative thinkers involved in media technologies takes place every year in September in a unlikely location, the Westergasfabriek, a former gasworks factory in the city of Amsterdam.

Initially conceived as a space where people working on inspiring and cutting-edge projects could gather, it has turned into a convergence of some of the world’s most well-known entrepreneurs, artists, innovators and scientists collaborating closer to engender a three-day experience packed full of inspiring ideas.

Whether a student, an independent thinker or a professor, the aim of the festival is to foster connections between people, industries and diverse disciplines in order to stimulate creativity, innovation and new business opportunities.

The Picnic09 programme focused on the challenges of financial crisis and climate change concern. Playing upon these themes gave way to showcases for ways to make a positive and noticeable change.

Due to the immense variety of stages, multiplied by the amount of speakers participating, not to mention complementary events and workshops running alongside, it was possible to witness but a few of these.

Keynote speakers

The keynotes speakers were the loudest names attending the event, the influential and high-ranking experts in new media, technology, business and creativity.

To mention just a few:

  • Niklas Zeenstrom, founder of KaZaA, Skype and Joost. He detailed the imperative and required tools that assisted him to become a successful entrepreneur, such as full dedication and building a good team around you. He also showed his latest engagements on the climate change problem.

  • Another remarkable speaker was Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder of MIT MediaLab and founder of the ambitious project One Laptop Per Child. Negroponte outlined the importance of children from developing countries having access to a computer: it helps foster intellectual creativity and, consequently, boost their development.

  • Professor of psychology at Stanford University and internationally known researcher Philip Zimbardo startled the audience with the theories included in his book, The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life. In this work he categorises people in past, present and future orientations and demonstrates that those people who are focused in the present and the future time are today’s creative minds and tomorrow’s innovators.

Festival highlights

The Picnic Labs were small workshops where each group instigated an idea that was finally pitched in the main conference hall as part of Picnic Bites. This year´s edition seemed

to be a little bit greener and therefore attendees could dive into Picnic Ecomap Lab, Picnic Creative Ecosystem Lab or Think Cradle2Cradle. All these Labs meant to attract participants concerned with ecological awareness and sustainability philosophy.

Meanwhile the event also organised the so-called Picnic Specials, small discussion groups built upon this year’s key topics to generate ideas, arguments and where the audience had the chance to interact with the speakers. Worth mentioning was the aptly-titled Reality Continuum, which pondered the increasing gravity of digital interactions and debated the controversy between virtual reality and real life.

Transmedia producer Nonny de la Peña and digital media artist Peggy Weil showed current work including a virtual access of Guantanamo Prison, leading into the discourse of how journalists report on destinations when we are denied access.

Picnic has always been a place that brings together visionary people with the most groundbreaking ideas and entrepreneurial spirit. But this year it also integrated eco-friendly policies and green solutions.

The Green Challenge is an international competition launched by the Dutch Postcode Lottery for the most innovative product or service idea to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The winner of this contest receives prize money of 500,000 euro to help finance their project. In previous editions Green Challenge was supported by international figures like former US president Bill Clinton and world-famous British entrepreneur Richard Branson.

This year’s winner was Power Collective Limited and its ingenious Wind Turbine. A nearly invisible rooftop wind turbine described by co-funder Dean Gregory as a “very small, very efficient windmill that blends into the open landscape…created for people in town to generate their own electricity, save carbon and save money.” Taking into account a basic estimate of 500,000 units across the world, it would be equivalent to turning off one coal power station.


Seasoned with sunshine, music, light displays and good karma, it truly was a picnic of innovation and creative challenges in a non-stop vibrant atmosphere, designed to provoke quirky reactions, entertain, inspire and uncork your brain.

If you missed it this time but want to get an idea of what it was like, you can get more information about its last editions and also visit Twitter, Friendfeed, Vimeo, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook or LinkedIn.