Since their inception, festivals have been associated with dancing, sex, and the use of alcohol and other drugs (AOD). However, these celebrations can also present high risk environments arising from the use of AOD, long durations of dancing without breaks, adverse weather conditions (e.g. high or low temperatures), unfamiliar environments, bright lights, loud music, decreased sleep and poor nutrition.

Adverse reactions to AOD, mental health problems, dehydration, exhaustion, sunburn, hyperthermia, hypothermia and other negative effects can occur as a result.  The use of AOD may also lead to an increased likelihood of engaging in risky sexual practices.

Festival welfare services are services which aim to reduce the risk and effect of several of these problems.  UK-based Chill Welfare, for example, aims to “keep people safe by reducing the harms caused by alcohol and other drugs, support mental wellbeing and promote sexual health”.  Check out Katy McLeod’s presentation at Students for Sensible Drug Policy Ireland’s 2017 annual conference (which Youth RISE co-sponsored) here.

They present an opportunity to engage with people experiencing acute problems, people who would normally not engage with services, and people who are at-risk of AOD, mental, sexual health and other problems.

 

Potential Benefits:

Crisis intervention and de-escalation;

Drug, sex and mental health promotion;

Referral to services;

Data collection e.g. Early Warning and Emerging Trends.

Festival welfare services may include:

Chill out spaces;

Emotional support;

Rest and recuperation;

Linking with services.

 

 

Such services ideally work in collaboration with the medical and security teams on-site at festivals.  They often include a stationary tent, rest and recuperation space, and outreach teams. Some services incorporate needle and syringe programs. Projects like Zendo  and Kosmiaid specialize in psychedelic harm reduction.

Services such as Eve und Rave in Switzerland, EnergyControl in Spain and DanceSafe  in the United States and Canada exist for around two decades.

Other Useful Resources:

Daath Psi Help Manual (English)

Zendo Psychedelic Harm Reduction Education

Harm Reduction or Psychedelic Support? Caring for Drug-Related Crises at Transformational Festivals