Leeds Festival organisers and city councillors spoke behind closed doors today on plans to tackle drug harm after the tragic death of a 17-year-old girl at the 2019 event in Bramham Park.
Melvin Benn, managing director of organiser Festival Republic, said drug information stands will be present in the arena section for the first time in the festival’s history as it seeks the green light from Leeds City Council ahead of the August bank holiday.
Earlier this year a senior coroner told the council and organisers to make changes to the festival’s event management plan to prevent future drug deaths after 17-year-old Anya Buckley died in Bramham Park in August 2019.
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Councillors voted to kick the public out of much of today’s licensing committee meeting due to the financial and crime prevention issues being discussed.
Anya Buckley, 17, died at Leeds Festival of a suspected drugs overdose
In the public portion of the meeting, public health officer Dan Burn said a “#LookOutForEachOther” campaign will be launched closer to the festival to promote drug and alcohol safety.
It will include digital animations and adverts displayed on social media and festival screens with messages including “Leave mixing to the DJ” and “First aid are here to help, not to judge”.
Mr Burn warned many festivalgoers may have low tolerance due to restrictions on events during the Covid pandemic.
“[Some] people haven’t gone out for a year-and-a-half, it may be that they haven’t been to a festival in a long time,” he told the committee.
Councillor Andy Hutchinson complained the campaign was “soft touch”.
“The message doesn’t seem quite strong enough around the drug and alcohol side,” the Morley Borough Independent said.
But Mr Burn insisted “hard touch” approaches don’t work and that the campaign has been tested on focus groups of young people.
“‘Just say no’ campaigns don’t work, scare stories don’t work,” he said. “We want to help people to look after themselves and each other”.
Festival Republic chief Melvin Benn also outlined Covid restrictions at the festival – including requirements that everyone must test negative every three days, regardless of whether they are vaccinated.
The organiser said a self-isolation campsite will also be in place for those who test positive during the festival.
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When asked what the festival will do to prevent people infected from Covid from sneaking out, Mr Benn said anyone testing positive will have their wristbands taken away.
“But we’re trusting that people will do the right thing,” he said.
After a lengthy discussion behind closed doors, councillors voted to delegate approval of the event plan to the council’s chief regulatory officer – the usual approach for approving festivals in the past.
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