'Happiness is Bad for the Economy' Welfare and Drug Safety at Boomtown Festival

‘Happiness is Bad for the Economy’
Welfare and Drug Safety at Boomtown Festival
Boomtown Fair; the festival where your lighter becomes as precious as your bank card. With a UK festival exclusive from Gorillaz, the festival lived up to its ever-heightening expectations. Despite torrential rain on Friday afternoon and consequently muddy landslides for the following three days, Boomtown still put on one of its most spectacular shows to date whilst concluding its 10th anniversary.
As a new chapter lingers in the near future, it is worth mentioning the safety precautions that Boomtown put into practice this year (and previous years) to do all they could in ensuring their civilians were safe from Wednesday through to Monday. Boomtown launched their Respect Campaign on the eve of this year’s festival that incorporates the motto ‘Respect Yourself, Respect Eachother and Respect Your City’. The Boomtown community is one of the most inclusive, vibrant and caring in the festival world, but Boomtown go that extra bit further in ensuring the safety of their citizens.  The festival aimed that every venue, stage and street was to be a space for freedom and expression and where judgement is left at the gates, so the headline message of ‘RESPECT’ was one being shouted loud and clear from the beginning.
As is the case across the rest of the UK, all illegal drugs (including nos) are not permitted at Boomtown. Anyone caught attempting to enter the festival with substances results in refusal of entry, eviction or prosecution. Ouch. The festival provided amnesty bins across the entry points and increased their security measures to enable them to prevent as many illegal substances from entering the site as possible. However, the dear creators of Boomtown are not stupid and stated on their website, “The ‘drugs are illegal don’t do them’ policy hasn’t worked in general society, and it is no different for festivals”. So what measures did they take in heightening the safety for citizens once in the festival and on these drugs?
Evolving from the Harm Reduction campaign launched in 2017, in which the festival released a harm reduction documentary which you can watch here,  the Winchester festival preached the message of 'safe sesh' this year. On their website, they also state these useful faculties that they offered to every attendee:
  • FREE text number to report anything directly to us so we can act upon it as soon as possible:  07786 207575
  • 24-hour Campsite Hubs
  • x2 24 hour medical facilities (including onsite pharmacy)
  • x2 Welfare centres
  • Roaming welfare teams in the campsites
  • Trained mental health professionals within both the Welfare and Medical teams with a dedicated Mental Health Response Team for anyone in crisis
  • Drug testing and harm reduction advice service (The Loop)
  • 2 x Info Points (Lost and found // Feedback // General Information)
  • Onsite Police station run by Hampshire Constabulary (in Hilltop this year)
Probably the biggest implementation that Boomtown offer is The Loop that was launched in 2017. This is a service that allows you to take any drugs in for testing before taking them during the festival. The anonymous, no judgement facility is there to tell you exactly what is in your little white bag and to then give you advice on how to take it if you still choose too (i.e. practicing safe sesh). Last year, the introduction of The Loop saw medical issues related to drugs down by 25% (yay!) whilst 44% of attendees said they would discard the drugs once finding out what was actually in them. Boomtown emphasise that this facility is not there to promote the use of drugs but to deal with it in a mature way that festival attendees will respond too. Plus, this year saw an increase in people using the service with 1735 test runs and 2700 receiving the one-on-one drug awareness counselling service. 
You can read all about what was found in the drugs at this years The Loop here.
It’s no secret that the festival receives bad press due the reported deaths from certain years. The Independent reported that in 2011, Deborah Jeffery, 45, from Winchester, suffered a fatal heart attack after taking ecstasy; in 2013, Oxfam steward Ellie Rowe, from Glastonbury, Somerset, died after taking ketamine and Lisa Williamson, 31, from Hereford, was found hanged after using drugs in 2014. However, it could be argued that more praise should be reported of the festival’s continued attempts to keep their attendees safe within the environment they create despite the occasional casualty.
Drugs at festivals are inevitable. Drugs in society are inevitable. Boomtown may have received a bad reputation for a number of casualties and deaths however, as a community it does everything it can to keep its citizens safe. As far as safety and welfare go, Boomtown always do the absolute maximum it can in keeping everyone happy and looked after. With welfare tents, medical on hand 24 hours a day, considerate citizens and hundreds of volunteers, it seems Boomtown is one of the few festivals that handles it's drug problem in a mature way. With backing support from Beans on Toast and many other acts that have played the festival, Boomtown seriously is one of the best most inclusive festivals on the planet.

Image: Sam Neill


Popular Posts