By Simona Sikimic
The Daily Star

BATROUN, Lebanon: Living by the sea his entire life with the sound of the Mediterranean lapping against his house every day, Georges “Junior” Daou has always been more attuned to nature than the average Lebanese youth.

It was only a few months ago, however, that the 24-year-old recent university graduate decided that his lifelong admiration for the outdoors could grow into a full-time occupation, where he could help the environment and his local community all at once.
Now finding himself as the face of the Wicker Park phenomenon, a one-day music and culture festival raising essential funds and awareness about ecological concerns, Daou has pledged to do everything in his power to make green issues the talk of the town.

“The sea was so much richer when I was younger but I have watched it get more and more polluted,” said Daou. “The environment is changing all around us and we can all sense it.”

Overhauling traditional campaigning methods, Daou and his team of three fellow young organizers, Friday hit the streets of Beirut’s Gemmayzeh bar district, flanked by girls in green uniforms and placards calling to “Give the Tree a Shot,” a literal reference for pub owners to bestow free alcoholic shots to their volunteers, clad in tree costumes.

But the publicity stunt is only the beginning, and the true festivities have been reserved for June 11 when five Lebanese bands will take to the stage at Wicker Park in Batroun for a five-hour musical extravaganza, held in aid of Lebanon Green Again (LGA), a civil society group working toward reducing fossil fuel use, increasing green spaces, and regulating fishing and hunting practices.

“Our idea is to influence people on more than one aspect, environmentally, musically, artistically and culturally,” said Daou.

“We believe that together through the talents of young Lebanese artists, we will be able to urge the youth to respect Mother Nature.

“We want to show that there is another young Lebanon, one that gets angry when you throw litter out of your speeding car window.”

Lebanese rock band Meen will be performing alongside the Makoustics, known for their funky takes on guitar classics, and Green Peter, dishing out an offering of psychedelic rock.

They will be joined by blues band Flying Circus, and electric gar favorites the Eardrums, as well as Jammit the Band, who will blast chilled reggae beats, synonymous with easy sea-side living.

Loud mouthed rapper and activist, Pierre Hashash will also perform his unique style of Lebanese rap, ensuring all audiences find something to dance the night away to.

Dubbed a “threesome between music, art and nature,” the festival, operating under the patronage of the Environment Ministry, will also feature painting and photography displays, in addition to video footage of environmental hazards in Lebanon.

“We will be able to say that we did something good, contributed and boosted awareness about an important issue,” said Daou.

Organizers hope to raise well in excess of $1,000, with all proceeds from the 5,000-capacity venue going to LGA.

The choice of location, nestled in the northern fishing town of Batroun, facing the quiet and secluded bay, is symbolic for the organizers, many of whom played in the field as children.

“The venue plays a powerful role in preserving the context of the festival,” said Daou. “It’s a one of a kind location, which will give the attending public a true experience of the beauty and power of nature.

“It’s an important green space in Batroun and while they are still relatively common, I fear it is only a matter of time before the town becomes a concrete jungle like Beirut and all the green spaces will disappear.”

Vowing to fight on and halt the feared destruction of his home town and surrounding countryside, Daou has already started preparing for Wicker Park 2012. “We already have a lot of ideas running around in our heads. This project has already become so much bigger than any of us first thought.”

Tickets for the event cost $20 and can be purchased from Antoine Librarie bookshops.

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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::