Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim), Billy Bragg, members of Metronomy, a cross-party group of more than 30 MPs, and events industry figures including NTIA CEO Michael Kill, have sent a letter to home secretary Suella Braverman requesting she reverse the “disastrous decision” to block onsite drug testing at festivals.
The move follows calls by leading festival promoters and the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), who expressed concern that the move could risk lives, after the Home Office prevented drug testing at LN Gaiety-owned Manchester festival Parklife for the first time since 2014.
The letter, which is also signed by Parklife co-founder Sacha Lord, said, “As you will know, since 2014 festival organisers have tested drugs, confiscated by the police or security, in a cabin on site. If these tests show that the drugs are a serious threat to health, push notifications are sent to festivalgoers, warning them that the drug is dangerous and should not be taken. This service undoubtably saves lives, by helping drug users make better informed choices and significantly reduces the risk of overdoses.”
It went on to say that the decision to prevent testing from going ahead is short-sighted and dangerous: “Regardless of your position or personal beliefs on drug usage, the simple fact is that people will take them, especially so at festivals this summer.”
Secret Garden Party founder Freddie Fellowes recently told Access that the first year of drug testing at the event saw welfare, medical and hospital admission drop by two thirds, and that level was retained as a result of the ongoing work in subsequent years.
The letter claims that the Home Office U-turn on drug testing means that festival organisers are now required to apply for a special license, which can take up to three months to come through, and that the tests must be carried out within permanent buildings – which is not feasible at some greenfield festivals.
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