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photography Chris Lee

UK festivals will let you test your drugs this summer

Between six and 10 festivals, including Reading and Leeds, will be a part of the emerging initiative

Following Secret Garden Party’s successful implementation of the first drug-testing service at a UK festival last year, several major summer events are following suit. If you’re worried about whether your ket’s actually DMT mixed with lightbulbs, or that pill’s 160 percent pure, there’s help at hand.

Reading and Leeds are among “six and 10 festivals” in the UK that will run drug-testing tents. The Loop, a non-profit drug safety organisation, will run the initiative, with support from local police units.

Melvin Benn of Live Nation told the Press Association of the “proactive” scheme, which they’ve been working on since last summer, though said the West Yorkshire Police and National Police Chiefs’ Council still have to confirm support. 

“We talked about it during the summer of last year and the reality is that I took a decision that unless and until the NPCC supported the principle of it, it was difficult for us to move forward on it.”

According to Benn, a draft agreement with authorities has been drawn so that the scheme can be totally supported.

Festival punters will be able to attend the drug testing tents, and hand over a sample. Whatever’s handed over will be analysed and then destroyed.

The Loop’s Fiona Measham said of the “radical” scheme: “It’s really exciting that police are prioritising health and safety over criminal justice at festivals.”

Measham hopes clubs and independent events will take up the practice, with drug-testing becoming more widespread. Schemes like this are already commonplace in countries like Germany and the Netherlands, and Manchester’s Warehouse Project first brought in drug testing back in 2013, following several drug-related deaths.

At 2016’s Secret Garden Party in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, 80 substances of concern including high-strength pills, anti-malaria tablets sold as ketamine and ammonium sulphate sold as MDMA were tested. At a festival that attracts around 30,000 people, over 200 people used to service across the first day and a half.

Drug-related deaths have been cropping up at British festivals for years, and it’s paramount that more is done to combat what could be very preventable with the right resources and education. Last year, an 18-year-old woman died at Boomtown Fair, the fourth drug-related death onsite.