Clean and sober music festivals? Nothing is impossible.

In the recent years, music festivals have become largely about drugs and alcohol than a music itself. The main reason is that people’s motivation for attending this type of event is to forget about their daily life and to act reckless for the duration of the festival. Very often festival goers tend to experiment with new things without being aware of possible consequences, such as drug overdose or injuries caused by excessive drinking. The problem is deepened by the fact that summer weather boosts one’s moods, therefore people do not pay attention to any possible risks, as they feel potentially safe in a pleasant environment. Alcohol is seen as a symbol of celebration, while drugs and ‘legal highs’ enhance visual and audible effects. Therefore, contemporary music festivals tend to have nothing to do with the music at all.

Dailymail (2013) found out that only 45% festival goers attend festivals like Glastonbury only for music. Another 55% respondents prefer to get drunk, do drugs or sleep with strangers than actually listen to the music. Glastonbury’s festival gained a ‘non-appreciate’ attention for excessive drinking, partying and illicit drug use. According to social media, around 70% posts mentioned about Glastonbury 2014 referred to alcohol, whereas marihuana and cocaine were mentioned in posts for roughly 15% and 10%, respectively.

It is interesting that so many people are confident enough to post about drug use on social media platforms. The issue with this is that these days, no one will get surprised with the video posted on Facebook of someone taking drugs or accepting drinking challenges at the music festival just to get some more ‘likes’. There are also social forums or blogs in which festival goers can get an advice about what drugs they should bring to the festival and what are the effects of each drugs.

Some may say that this behaviour is nothing but a form of encouraging people for doing drugs and drinking alcohol excessively. It seems that the more people talk about it, the more socially acceptable usage of those substances will be. As a result, there is a greater likelihood that drug dealers will be attracted from the opportunity to make some more money at the festivals, as social media indicate that potential drug users will be available there, as everyone talk about it. Additionally, music festivals can expect minors attempting to buy and drink alcohol, which leads to legal problems for the event organisers. Moreover, excessive drinking increases the anti-social and violent behaviours, for example people can get into fights and get injured, which is problematic for the festival’s health workers and security. Finally, those substances can disturb the experience of people who actually do not do any drugs or drink alcohol

Others, on the other hand, think that people are only people and thus they will take drugs or drink alcohol no matter what, therefore it is more practical to actually raise awareness of those substances and reduce the harm rather than enforce a drug-free and sober society. To do so, it is recommended to provide information leaflets about drug and alcohol effects, to create friendly environments for people on psychedelic drugs or to make water more accessible at the event. Moreover, Major Lazer – electronic duo Diplo and Jillionaire, are also against banning drugs at the festivals. They think that ‘kids’ should be educated how to take drugs in the same way they are taught about responsible drinking and safe sex.

In terms of legal-highs, they are also very popular among festival goers. The big issue is that they are legally accessible and can be easily brought in to the festival. Legal highs contain chemical substances which produce similar effects to illegal drugs. The sad truth is the fact that a substance is sold as ‘legal’ does not mean that it is safe or legal.  People cannot really be sure of what is in a ‘legal high’ that they have bought, or been given, or what effect it is likely to have on them or their friends. Legal highs can be life threating especially when mixed with alcohol. Because of this problem, many festivals came out with the idea of implementing ‘blackout’ campaigns to reduce the problem of festival goers taking legal highs or any other illegal substances and to raise awareness about it.  In this campaign the festival’s website that support this idea goes dark for 24 hours bearing only a light bulb and the message: “Don’t be in the dark about legal highs.”

As can be seen, music festivals are bearing with many issues like excessive drinking and taking drugs and ‘’legal highs’’. As a future event organiser, the best tactic is to learn from the past and trying to prevent any future incidents. New Zealand Police created a Guidelines for managing alcohol at large events, that might be really helpful with dealing with alcohol control for example. It is good to be up to date with any new legislations or technology devices. I am pretty aware that the good risk assessment is a key for a good performance at the event. Breaching for example health and safety regulations or letting underage attendees to drink alcohol can result in large sums of penalties and even prosecutions. That’s why is so important for me, and for a whole event industry to minimise the risk of people taking drugs and drinking excessively. Not being able to do so can damage the reputation of the company or even worse, can put your name on a ‘black list’ as the worst event manager/planner and disable you to work in the industry again.


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