Leading festival promoters and the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) have called on the Home Office to reverse its move to block on-site drug testing at festivals.
The recent move by Government meant drug testing at LN Gaiety-owned Manchester festival Parklife was unable to take place at the 80,000-capacity event for the first time since 2014.
“The Government has dangerously done a U-turn on back-of-house drugs testing,” said Parklife co-founder Sacha Lord. “This now drags us back into the ‘90s. We’ve been testing since 2014. We need to be talking and educating, not ignoring. Back-of-house testing saves lives.”
AIF CEO John Roston also called on the Government to once again allow drug testing at festivals: “This is not a pro-drugs stance it is a pro-saving lives stance.
“There are drugs in prisons, and they are supposed to be the most secure places. Festivals are not prisons; we can do our very best but despite all of our work some drugs will get onto festival sites. If we can test the drugs, confiscate them and identify hazardous substances we can convey that message to audiences and potentially save lives, because whatever we confiscate on the door is likely to be similar to what has made it inside.
“Testing means we can provide important information for our audiences, police and hospital workers – it saves lives by encouraging people not to take the drugs, and enabling health professional to provide swift and appropriate treatment.”
Drug-testing charity The Loop has worked at festivals including Parklife and Secret Garden Party for years but was recently informed by the Home Office that it will now need to apply for a licence rather than relying on existing agreements with police.
The Loop has also worked with festivals to enable attendees to test drugs without recrimination, with Secret Garden Party becoming the first to do so in 2016.
The festival’s founder Freddie Fellowes told Access All Areas that the first year of testing saw welfare, medical and hospital admission drop by two thirds, and that level was retained as a result of the ongoing work by The Loop in subsequent years.
He said, “The Home Office have pulled this back for very hard to understand reasons, because The Loop are applying for a permanent licence to be able to do this in a couple of city centres around England and while the Home Office is considering this, they’re not willing to consider any temporary licences for this elsewhere. If I was going to be a little bit rude about the Home Office, it seems they consider that there is such a thing as too much harm reduction.”
The Home Office issued a press statement that said anyone interested in undertaking lawful activities involving the possession, supply or production of controlled drugs, including those who wish to provide drug testing services, need to apply for a Home Office licence.