UK Festivals To Blackout Websites Against Legal Highs

  • 25 Festivals including T in the Park, Bestival, Secret Garden Party, Lovebox, Global Gathering and Sonisphere participate
  • Blackout of websites and social media – 5th May – to spread awareness of the dangers of legal highs

London:- At 9am on Monday 5th May 2014, 25 UK festivals including T in the Park, Bestival, Secret Garden Party, Lovebox, Global Gathering, Parklife and Sonisphere will conduct a digital blackout across their websites and social media, throwing their homepages into darkness for a day to raise awareness of the dangers of legal highs. The participating festivals have a combined capacity of over five hundred thousand and an online reach well into the millions.

Music fans arriving at the homepages of the participating festivals will be met with a completely black window except for a grey light bulb and the message ‘Don’t be in the Dark about Legal Highs’. Upon clicking on the light bulb, information on legal highs will appear (see below) and the user will be able to either click through to find out more, or navigate to the regular festival homepage. Many of the festivals’ social media profiles will also feature the light bulb as their main profile picture.

The initiative has been put together by UK festivals trade body, the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), who are working with Angelus Foundation, a charity set up exclusively to educate individuals about the risks of legal highs. The initiative is expected to become an annual event.

The full list of festivals participating is T in the Park, Bestival, Lovebox, Global Gathering, Secret Garden Party, Sonisphere, We Are FSTVL, 2000trees, ArcTanGent, Kendal Calling, Festibelly, Blissfields, Truck, Brownstock, Y Not Festival, Tramlines, Belladrum Tartan Heart, Leefest, Nozstock, Wakestock, Shambala, Glasgow Summer Sessions, Hebridean Celtic Festival, Parklife and Eden Sessions.

A key focus of the campaign is to dispel the misconception that ‘legal’ equates to ‘safe’, and the trends are worrying – last year’s ONS report showed an 80% increase of deaths from legal highs from 29 to 52. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction identified over 280 psychoactive synthetic substances as not being covered by existing drug laws, with regulation unable to keep pace with the number of new substances entering the market. Health researchers have described taking legal highs as like ‘Dancing in a minefield’.

AIF stands against the sale of these substances at festivals and members are supporting this stance by banning the sale of legal highs by traders onsite at their events. This position is aligned with the approach of major festival promoters such as DF Concerts (T in the Park, Glasgow Summer Sessions) who have also banned the sale of such substances onsite– the issue unites the entire industry.

AIF Co-Founder and Vice ChairBen Turner said, Legal highs are a serious concern for any festival organiser and the issue is only going to get bigger. The substances have managed to fly under-the-radar purely by evolving faster than the monitoring bodies can regulate. 

“Banning it at our festivals is only part of the battle however, we need to make fans aware of the dangers of legal highs and help them make safer choices when having fun on site.”

Maryon Stewart, Founder of Angelus Foundation added, Legal highs are a huge but hidden problem because young people are acting in ignorance and no-one is measuring the harms. As the lead organisation raising awareness of these substances, Angelus is delighted the festivals are taking the issue seriously and helping to keep their audiences safe. We are determined to keep expanding our prevention programme into new areas and bigger events until everyone get the message that the effects of these substances are unpredictable and high risk.

Notes to the editor:

Legal Highs FAQs

Festival fans who click on the light bulb when reaching the blackout festival landing pages will see the following message:

Five key points to remember this festival season:

  1. Be well informed – legal does not mean safe.
  2. Legal highs are unpredictable and untested – it’s impossible to know what you are taking and what the effects will be.
  3. Legal highs are banned onsite at most festivals.
  4. Look after yourself and your mates: Seek medical attention immediately if you become unwell.
  5. Mixing legal highs with other drugs or alcohol increases risks.

Upon clicking on ‘More about legal highs’ the festival fan is taken to a page displaying the following information:

What are they?

Legal highs are new substances that are untested and unregulated.  They have many names including ‘legals’, ‘New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)’ and ‘herbal highs’. They are often sold as bath salts or plant food and labelled ‘Not for human consumption’ to get around the law.

The effects

Legal highs mimic the effects of illegal drugs and are just as dangerous.

As with illegal drugs, they have a comedown period where users feel sick, anxious, bad tempered and paranoid.

How much is too much?

Legal highs are risky no matter how much is taken, as the contents are often unknown with huge variations in chemical composition. Knowing what even a small dose will do is unpredictable. Using large quantities increases the risk of side effects or overdose. Taking more than one drug at a time or combining with alcohol also increases the risk.

Are they permitted at festivals?

No. Because of the dangers, risks and unpredictability, the sale and possession of legal highs is not permitted at festivals in the UK. You will have them confiscated and you may be refused entry to the site.

Addiction

Any drug can potentially lead to addiction and mental health problems, even drugs branded as ‘legal’. Highly addictive substances such as Mephedrone were once classified as legal highs.

Dangers of overheating

Some legal highs can cause overheating and dehydration, which can be extremely dangerous. Being in a hot, crowded environment, not drinking enough water and drinking alcohol only makes this worse.

Look after yourself and your mates

It’s really important to seek help immediately if you or your friends do become unwell. Never allow them to take more substances to ‘straighten up’, this will just make them worse.  At festivals, there are stewards, welfare and medical points around the main sites and campsites where you can seek help if needed.

Where can I find out more?

Why Not Find Out- Providing information to help you make informed decisions about legal highs- http://www.whynotfindout.org/

 

Angelus Foundation – an organisation dedicated to raising knowledge and information skills of parents and other family members about the dangers and risks of legal highs and club drugs- http://www.angelusfoundation.com/

Scottish Drugs Forum- A membership based drugs policy and information organisation and national resource of expertise on drug issues- http://www.sdf.org.uk/

Know the Score- Information and helpline set up by the Scottish Government http://knowthescore.info/

Talk to Frank- UK Government funded advice centre- http://www.talktofrank.com/

Links to further reports on legal highs:

European Drug Report 2013: Trends and Developments – http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/attachements.cfm/att_213154_EN_TDAT13001ENN1.pdf

ONS Report – Deaths Related to Drug Poisoning in England and Wales, 2012 – http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_320841.pdf

The number of UK deaths linked to so-called “legal highs” has risen in recent years – from 10 in 2009 to at least 68 in 2012’ – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-26089126

UK legal high market is EU’s largest, UN report says – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23048267

In 2012, legal highs were implicated in the deaths of 47 people in Scotlandhttp://news.stv.tv/scotland/237481-new-challenge-for-agencies-as-legal-highs-implicated-in-47-scottish-deaths/

323 hospital admissions due to legal highs in Scotland since 2009http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-26208049

‘Legal high’ deaths soar to highest number on record  –http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/10271798/Legal-high-deaths-soar-to-highest-number-on-record.html

About AIF

The Association of Independent Festivals is a not for profit body set up in 2008 to represent independent music festivals in the UK and Ireland.

Conceived by Bestival promoter Rob da Bank and Graphite’s Ben Turner, the Association’s founder members included Bestival, Cornbury Festival, Evolution Festival, Secret Garden Party, Kendal Calling and WOMAD.

With almost 50 members ranging from the 2,000 capacity ‘In the Woods’ in Kent to the 55,000 capacity Bestival in the Isle of Wight, AIF enables the promoters of some of the UK & Ireland’s most innovative and successful festivals to speak with one voice when addressing the wider music business and government.

AIF aims to establish best practice for festivals in a variety of areas such as security, the environment and beyond, providing a knowledge base for festival promoters, as well as creating collective purchasing and marketing opportunities for its members.

AIF operates as an autonomous division of the Association of Independent Music.