Perhaps one of the biggest controversies within UK music festivals over the last few years was the decision to implement drug testing facilities inside the festival. Secret Garden Party initiated the trial in 2016 after several reports of overdoses at music festivals across the country. The scheme caused both positive and negative press with many arguing that the festival should have a zero-tolerance policy on drugs. However, organisers claim “we want to have an open and honest discussion to make sure we are doing everything in our power to educate, protect and prevent similar incidents occurring at the festival, and beyond, in the future.”
And after yet another 2 young people died a mutiny festival in 2018, experts are now asking for such facilities to be implemented at all festivals and events nationwide.
With online discussion about music festivals rising by 34% since 2013 the young people of the web are sharing every single aspect of their cRaZy festival traditions and at times reckless behaviour. Perhaps, on reflection, the much darker side of the social media influence on festival culture. A 2015 investigation found that 2% of Glastonbury posts on Instagram mentioned substance abuse. Whether that be a coy caption hinting towards their out-of-the-ordinary venture into drug experimentation or a blatant post of ‘Ben’ the child star of ‘Outnumbered’ chanting the word “KETAMINE” into the crowds of boomtown. It seems that even substance abuse at festivals isn’t too taboo to put online. Which begs the question, how can festival owners and creators prevent further casualties and fatalities as a result of the casual attitudes towards experimenting that everyone seems to adopt at festivals?
Organisation ‘The Loop’ are popularising drug testing and festivals and events across the UK with Love Saves the Day festival claiming, ‘Initiatives like this are undoubtedly saving lives in today’s festival climate.’ Their aim not to stop all drugs at festivals but rather…
“Help people make informed choices, raising awareness of particularly dangerous substances in circulation and reducing the chance of drug-related problems occurring. It’s an important innovation that we know can reduce risks and potentially save lives.”
Making experimentation at festivals, which many have deemed inevitable, less high risk and safer for those participating in drug culture at music festivals. By allowing such facilities at festivals, the number of drug-related casualties at music festivals could dramatically reduce but more than that, the careless nature that often comes with taking drugs in festivals should be reduced as they aim to spread awareness about drugs and recreational use in equal measure to testing drugs that have already been purchased.
— The Loop (@WeAreTheLoopUK) May 27, 2018
An article about the loops claims that one in four people decided to dispose of their drugs after finding the actual contents through drug testing at the loop. So maybe safe drug use is the answer. But how do you promote drug testing without promoting drug culture within festivals. To be fair that’s most likely the debate of the festival owners.
Then comes the question of, as adults, (most festivals require attendees to be either with someone over the age of 18 or to be over the age of 18) much as it is our responsibility to feed and hydrate ourselves in order to survive, why is it the festival’s responsibility to make sure that your illegal activities are done safely. Surely the person who makes the decision to take illegal substances is aware of the risk.
What the loop does is actually pretty incredible for helping with issues of drugs in festival culture and extremely giving, they acknowledge the young and free spirit of the modern music festival and don’t necessarily facilitate attendees but they doe ensure that in having all the ‘fun’ and CrAzY times they can have, they are doing it safely. There is a problem with drugs in festival culture but ultimately, it then comes down to the person themselves if they see taking the substance a vital part of their experience, then it must be the person themselves who is responsible for the repercussions. If a festival already has security checks and testing facilities then the rest, I’m afraid, is up to you. Yes, we live in a world where social media influence is massive and 2% may seem like a small amount in the grand scheme of things but if you consider that 2% of Glastonbury attendance is 7,000. Meaning that there are 7,000 people willing to share their activity online. How many people can that reach. More over how many will that influence. If I can advocate online posts as being one of the most effective forms of advertisement for festivals then I can also say that social media is a powerful media for the dark side of festivals too. Drugs festival culture is almost impossible to control but there is help and advice available. Be safe. Be wise. Be aware.
For more info about the work that the Loop does click here: https://wearetheloop.org
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