The UK Festival Awards has announced this year’s Outstanding Contribution to Festivals Award will be presented to Professor Fiona Measham.

Throughout her 30-year academic career which spans King’s College, Cambridge and the University of Liverpool – Measham’s work has been shaped by her passion for music and dance culture. Her academic work has always been action-oriented, reflecting her lifelong commitment to equality and social justice. Over the years, she has served on the Government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, David Nutt’s Drugs Science Committee, the Lib Dems’ expert panel on cannabis regulation, and was the key expert witness in the fight to keep Fabric nightclub open.

Her research interest in how the interface of dance music culture and criminal justice impacted on the health and wellbeing of young people ultimately led to her establishing the harm reduction service, The Loop. It was the first organisation to offer drug safety testing services in the UK, first at Kendal Calling and the Secret Garden Party festivals in 2016, then many more over the next four years.

Through The Loop, festivalgoers can submit a sample without fear of legal sanction, have it tested by The Loop’s team of graduate chemists, then have the test results given to them by a healthcare professional during a 15-minute consultation. This knowledge has minimised the risks involved with drug-taking by allowing thousands of individuals to make more informed choices about their drug use. Evidence gathered by The Loop has shown that drug related harm has been reduced after the service has been implemented, and a significant amount of contaminated or mis-sold drugs have been identified and destroyed.

The Loop addresses the reality of drug use in a pragmatic and non-judgmental way. It has the power to save lives, and with drug-related deaths in 2018 being the highest since 1993, it is urgently needed.

Fiona and her team of over 200 Loop volunteers are all unpaid, yet still develop and implement the service. Fiona and The Loop have not only helped keep young people safe, but have also helped sway the national discourse on drugs, not only amongst festival promoters, but also amongst the police, public health officials, the media, and in Westminster. Policy on drugs and health has started to evolve positively; away from zero tolerance approaches, and towards a reality-based focus on health, leisure and harm reduction.

The judges have cited the above reasons as why Fiona will be presented with the UKFA’s Outstanding Contribution to Festivals Award.

The UK Festival Awards will take place on 5 December at the Troxy in London.