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.
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;
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.
- Eve and Rave started initially to provide drug checking and information at parties. Today, it hosts an online forum (German language) and supports Safer Party at large Swiss festivals where it helps provide welfare services in three – sometimes four – languages.
- EnergyControl conducts peer-to-peer work, produces informational leaflets/pamphlets, sets up information stands and display cases in night life settings, trains nightlife professionals (e.g. event organisers, bar workers ), co-ordinates the Trans-European Drug Information Project (T.E.D.I.) (See: here) and hosts an anonymous online international drug checking service.
- DanceSafe “a 501(c)3 public health nonprofit that promotes health and safety within the electronic music and nightlife communities” has approximately 20 autonomous chapters and was represented at around 150 festivals last year. Chapters sell reagent tests (See: Reagent Testing). DanceSafe also provide an online education course (i.e. the DanceSafe Training Program) and helps support the Erowid Centre– run EcstacyData.org laboratory pill testing program with Isomer Design.
Other Useful Resources:
Daath Psi Help Manual (English)