Glastonbury marks the beginning of the summer festival season, where I know a number of Kaleidoscope staff will be heading to be part of the party. The popularity of Music Festivals seems to be as strong as ever. Even at my old age (54) I am looking at attending the biggest Welsh Music festival, Green Man, but throughout the UK and Europe revellers will be everywhere.
One of the major drugs of course will be alcohol. Green Man, which is not sponsored by any major brewery, has one of its selling points as the opportunity to purchase up to 100 different beers. Other festivals will be either sponsored by, or promoting, various alcohol beverages.
Of course no festival will be promoting drugs, but in the freedom and celebratory mood of festivals many people will be taking them. What makes the situation potentially dangerous is for many it will be for the first time, and for others mixed with large quantities of drink and sun.
Drug and alcohol services will have a small presence in some festivals, but at best they can only advise on safer use. Overall these services will be an irrelevant side show. The reason for such irrelevance is they cannot offer the support people need. Namely those taking substances need to know what they are taking, and the strength of such drugs. If we equipped staff with the right tools for an intervention, we may find a way for people to listen to the informed advice they try to give. Testing will also help protect anyone taking drugs to get the support they need. The workers or health care professionals called can then make the right intervention if they know the drug taken and its strength. In Wales WEDINOS test drugs to ensure services helping drug users know the purity of drugs, as well as any emerging drugs that are in the community.
There are many tragic stories, such as that of Christian Pay who died after taking what has been dubbed as a rogue ecstasy tablet at a festival in Kendal. The Festival also saw four young people hospitalised. If the drug had been tested the mother of Christian believes he may have been saved and that the continued legal status of them is the problem. The following article recalls the tragic event.
The call for testing has been made by a number of organisations including ‘The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), who say that stronger ecstasy in the UK is resulting in “serious health harm”. They want festival-goers to be able to test their drugs on site to make sure they aren’t carrying dangerous substances.
One of the key campaigners for safer festivals is Freddie Fellowes the founder of the Secret Garden Party. He told the BBC that he backs the call to roll out drug testing across more UK events. He says the trial last year was “a wide success”. “If it’s a good idea in one place it’s a good idea everywhere,” he told Newsbeat.
Freddie Fellowes said he was “thrilled” to be able to pioneer the service. “Harm reduction and welfare is a vital part of hosting any event and it’s an area that for too long has seen little development or advancement,” he said.
Sadly this year will be their last http://www.secretgardenparty.com/ethos/ but certainly in this area of work they deserve huge praise for showing what can be done, and why festivals need to take the safety and welfare of their events seriously.
The service offered festivalgoers a 10-minute package of health and safety advice provided by The Loop, an organisation that conducts forensic testing of drugs at festivals and nightclubs and offers associated welfare support.
Fiona Measham, co-founder of the organisation, explains; “The Loop has been conducting forensic testing at events for a number of years, but before now, we’ve only tested drugs seized by police, dropped in amnesty bins or provided by paramedics as a result of a medical incident. In the past we have been able to use that testing information to inform on-site services and for generalised safety alerts.” https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jul/24/secret-garden-party-pioneers-drugs-testing-for-festival-goers
She noted in a further interview with Newsbeat;
“A remarkable percentage of the people who had their substances tested there chose to throw them away,” he says.
“Otherwise they would have gone on to take something that’s clearly not what they were expecting.”
“There was a case of some anti-malaria drugs being powdered up and sold as cocaine.”
“We also came across someone who was selling ecstasy tablets that turned out to be 100% concrete.”
A rise in the strength of ecstasy in the UK has been blamed for an increase in drug-related deaths between 2010 and 2015.
The campaign for drug testing continues and Newsbeat reported new festivals embracing this new initiative. http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/39996522/six-uk-music-festivals-are-to-allow-drug-testing-including-reading-and-leeds