As Australia grapples with a spate of deaths at music festivals, Triple J presenter Tom Tilley heads to Europe to see drug testing in action. But is it the only way to keep people safe?
While Australia is investigating a spate of recent drug-related deaths at festivals, Triple J presenter Tom Tilley heads to Europe and the UK to find out how countries over there are dealing with the challenge.
Summertime in Europe means festival season is peaking. On most weekends, tens of thousands of people, young and old, come together to experience live music and culture.
“It’s not like, ‘Are you going to a festival?’ It’s, ‘Which festivals are you going to?’” says Anna Wade, an organiser from Boomtown Fair in the UK.
But with festivals comes drug use and risk. Research by The Loop, a not for profit drug testing service in the UK, suggests around half of festival-goers in the UK use illegal drugs.
“We do [drugs] to enhance the experience, to enjoy ourselves, to live life,” says one party-goer at Boomtown Fair, who’s smuggled several illegal substances into the event.
In England, Tom goes behind the scenes at Boomtown Fair, one of the country’s biggest festivals, joining 66,000 partygoers over five days. With a history of drug deaths, Boomtown is now taking a pro-active approach to keeping its revellers safe.
Comprehensive medical emergency facilities, roving welfare staff and back-of-house drug testing all come together in its multi-agency approach.
But this year, a key piece of Boomtown’s safety strategy – its front-of-house drug testing service – where punters take their personal stash to be tested out in the open – falls through at the last minute.
“It does worry me that someone could die this weekend,” says one young woman.
A short plane ride away, on the same weekend in Switzerland, Tom discovers a very different approach. He joins one million people partying in the streets of Zurich and finds drug testing services operating out in the open. They’re government-run and free, and the party-goers are queuing up.
In this colourful episode of Foreign Correspondent, Tom Tilley takes us inside festival culture and asks, how can we keep our young people safe?
Testing Times airs on Foreign Correspondent on ABC TV at 8pm AEST Tuesday 17th September & Friday 20th September 1.30pm. Also on ABC News Channel on Wed 18th September at 5.30am, Saturday 21st at 9.30pm & Sunday 22nd September at 5.30pm & iview