Cambridgeshire, UK festival Secret Garden Party has become the first UK event to introduce drug testing for festivalgoers on site.
This is a fantastic move in the international efforts towards harm reduction and a kind of educated awareness about drugs and drug use in 2016 – an approach that unfortunately is yet to be welcomed in Australia, and has in fact been rejected by our government numerous times.
Around 200 attendees used the testing facility, arranged by drug testing organisation The Loop. Now in its 12th year, festival founder Freddie Fellowes told The Guardian that he was “thrilled” to offer drug testing at the festival. “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.”
The Loop reportedly offered attendees a ten minutes of health and safety advice, including on-the-spot drug testing, used to determine exactly what is found within an attendees’ drugs, and whether it is safe for consumption.
Festival co-founder Fiona Measham called the move “a big step forward,” and indeed, it’s an incredible move that we will hopefully see replicated in Australia and across the world at festivals, nightclubs and so on. Currently, the Australian police force are more focused on employing techniques like increased numbers of drug detection dogs, overbearing body and vehicle searches, and harsher grounds for arresting and charging punters found with varying quantities of illicit substances. Over the weekend, a police operation was in full swing at Splendour in the Grass in Byron Bay, with more than 200 drug-related arrests made.
Measham said, “For the first time we’ve been able to offer the testing service to individual users as part of a tailored advice and information package provided by a team of experienced drugs workers. This can help people make informed choices, raising awareness of particularly dangerous substances in circulation and reducing the chance of drug-related problems occurring.”
More than 80 substances were tested at Secret Garden Party. Among the results, tests uncovered extra high-strength MDMA, as well as numerous examples of “misrepresented” substances, including anti-malaria tablets posing as ketamine, and ammonium sulphate instead of MDMA.
Below, explore some of our ongoing, extensive reporting of the need for pill testing at music events.
Image: Alamy/The Guardian