According to a report in the BBC, at least six UK music festivals are expected to allow people to test their illegal drugs this summer.
It’s after a number of drug-related deaths in recent years. Reading and Leeds Festivals and a number of other live music events are aiming to introduce the scheme with the support of local police forces.
Melvin Benn from Festival Republic revealed the scheme to the Press Association and expects it at “between six and 10 festivals this year”. “We talked about it during the summer of last year and the reality is that I took a decision that unless and until the National Police Chiefs’ Council supported the principle of it, it was difficult for us to move forward on it.”
He says he’s now seen a draft of an agreement that will make it easier for forces across the country to support the scheme but has revealed it won’t be introduced at Download next month.
“We’ll see it this year for definite… at Leeds I’m pretty certain. “It’s taken a long time and it won’t be at every festival, but where we think there is a need to do it we will be doing it.”
Melvin Benn, who also organises Latitude, V Festival, Wireless and other events for Live Nation, has been working on the plan since last summer. He’s waiting for confirmation of support from West Yorkshire Police and the National Police Chiefs’ Council. Festival-goers will be able to take their drugs to a testing tent run by The Loop, an organisation which usually conducts forensic testing of drugs seized by police.
Last year, Newsbeat was there when The Loop ran the scheme for the first time at a UK music festival. Around 200 people tested their illegal drugs at the Secret Garden Party in Cambridgeshire. Founder of the organisation, Fiona Measham from Durham University, said the scheme’s expansion was “radical”. “It’s really exciting that police are prioritising health and safety over criminal justice at festivals,” she said. She thinks up to 10 festivals will be involved this year, including a number of independent events, and hopes testing will become more common in clubs and city centres in the future as well.
As well as 17-year-old Lewis Haunch’s death at Leeds Festival last August, two teenagers died at T In The Park in what were thought to be drug-related incidents. West Yorkshire Police assistant chief constable Andy Battle, who leads the policing operation at Leeds, said they were “looking at the possibility of supporting the festival’s organisers”.
“We can never condone the use of illegal drugs, but we recognise that some people will continue to take them and we need to adapt our approach in the interests of public safety.”