I’m very blessed to have had the opportunity to bring my children up in a festival environment..they have experienced the best festivals can offer , the people, the acceptance and the creative community.
But then we don’t do
Leeds/reading, v festival, park life festival or similar, they are very different kettles of fish. My children have been around drugs. Not that me or their father partake, we are clean as a whistle,we talk to them too.
We don’t hide it, drug taking happens, we answer their questions and tell them the truth. But there is no doubt they have seen the dealers and takers and unfortunately the negative outcomes too.
From my experience it’s not the older drug takers that are an issue, the older folks are the more experienced they are, the more they spend on their ‘meds’ , the more likely they know and trust its source. But young festivals, where 16 to 18 year olds take leave of their parents for their first weekend of freedom are more vulnerable in their excitement to experiment.
They don’t know the difference between good and bad ‘shit’ and they don’t know what their bodies and minds can handle. They don’t know who they are buying from and actually what to expect!
We have seen some messes, even at the ‘tamer’ festivals, we’ve seen some very scary messes over the last ten years of travelling the circuit! It’s not pretty and if can be scary! I’ve lost count of the times I’ve smelt death in the air!
As a none drug taker it’s easy to get frustrated when your friends are having a ‘great time’ with the help of their chosen compound , not realising that they are boring as shit when their buzz sets in and they are staring into middle space, not keeping up with conversation, slurring their words and actually only partying in their own heads! But we are lucky enough to never see them get in such a state we had to get them help or keep them safe. To be honest we tend to have left them to it long before this could happen and settle for some good conversation and laughs on our own, where we are high on life and the moment.
All this aside I don’t think parents should stop their kids going to the ‘rites of passage’ events. You see their kids have their own minds and they are more educated about drugs than we ever were. Frankly if they are going to use they will find a way to use wether it’s in a field with 25,000 others or at home on a park bench with their closest pals.
Parents should rest at ease..a festival environment is actually the safest place to experiment with drugs, With trained welfare teams on hand, security, stewards and medics all watching armed with radios and festival awareness , having a bad experience both mentally and physically doesn’t leave you as vulnerable as it would elsewhere.
Outside of the fields finding and requesting help ( if you can physically talk) is less likely when you are in a club or a private party. Not only do you need to find courage to phone 999 or come clean to a family member or friend, you are at risk of prosecution , something festivals tend to avoid. They are more interested the dealers, not the takers.
Also you are among groups of others when you’re at a festival. Festivals are great for bringing people together and it’s not like been in the street.. Folks don’t just walk past you if your in trouble. Different genres at events and different music and crowds tend to bring similar ages and accepting groups together. This allows great community spirit and peer support should you find your self in drug fueled trouble. Our experience shows that folks in trouble are brough to the attention of staff very quickly.
This is less likely in the ‘outside world’ with such mixed groups of people and fear of prosecution as well as the stigma of drug and alcohol users, it comes as no surprise that folks will just walk on by leaving you lay in the gutter needing help.
Many festivals are now offering testing facilities, where substances can be checked to ensure they are safe to take. At a recent event we attended I chatted to (a very busy ) welfare team. It had been a super messy night, folks were littered around puking, crying, shaking, passed out. It looked like a war zone! Welfare told me a bad batch of Ketamine was the cause , they didn’t know what it had been mixed with but it was having a rotten effect. We were guarding our pitch from serial urination and general aggressors while they told us how the team were frustrated. Welfare had the kit to test substances but the production team didn’t want to spend the extra money on the service…. not many do. It’s a shame and I think it’s something that will come in the future.
Festivals need to take responsibility to do what they can to ensure their guests are safe, if there is drug taking at their event and vulnerable young adults as their customers, then they need to consider it their duty to ensure they minimise the negative effects.
So as news came in that another young person lost their life to drugs at Leeds festival, and I read about how parents are terrified about their children’s safety, I think of the professionals who had to deal with that awful situation and hope the organisers across the uk take heed and think about what they can do to stop this or at least do everything they can to minimise the risk! . Another lesson learned we hope. If festival producers and councils spent as much time worrying about the welfare of their clients as they did about sound levels and car parking, festivals would have a much better reputation.
My girls are both at Leeds this weekend and I’m pretty sure they are been safe, but what do I know? I was young once and remember how invincible I felt! The only thing to do is to hope that if they need it, they get support and gentle care. We can then rest assured there are plenty of qualified and able folks on site to look after them… If, of course.. The purse strings were opened for them!