Question: What do you get when you fill a room with music festival producers, health professionals, harm reduction advocates, security professionals, and policy makers?
Answer: A terrific conversation and lots of great ideas for moving forward.
Think about the last time you were at a music festival, whether as an attendee or a staff member. Remember the amazing energy, the laughter, the dancing, the costumes, and the fantastic music? Those are some of the many reasons that large-scale music festivals are so popular.
Tragically, in the summer of 2014, there were at least 5 Canadian fatalities related to attendance at an electronic music event (EDME). Annually, there are hundreds of music festivals all over the world and increasingly, deaths are reported. In fact, the majority (approximately 75%) of non-traumatic deaths at music festivals are associated with drug and alcohol related harms (Turris & Lund, in review).
Last month the Mass Gathering Medicine Interest Group and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse co-hosted a meeting at the Sheraton Wall Center in Vancouver, British Columbia. Over the course of the 2-day meeting, everyone came together to identify issues and problem solve around improving safety at EDMEs.
It was a great meeting! Working in health care, I commonly sit in rooms with other health professionals. At this meeting, I had the chance to collaborate with great minds from a variety of professions. There were many different perspectives represented by the 40+ participants and the conversation was energetic, to say the least.
Throughout the meeting, participants were asked to consider how,
- we might design safer EDMEs;
- to embed health promotion, illness prevention, and harm reduction to mitigate risk for attendees; and,
- we might optimize the medical response for EDMEs.
From across North America, representatives were invited from policing, security services, and permitting authorities (both municipal and the liquor board). Event producers and event medical service providers were present. And, health was well represented by professionals from the fields of public health, toxicology, emergency services, and emergency medicine. Harm reduction advocates attended, as did policy makers. In other words, there was a wealth of event experience in the room; it was a privilege to be part of the conversation.
Some comments from the 2-day meeting:
“Music festivals are safe, enjoyable community events. Rarely, harms do occur.”
“We need to cooperate rather than compete, in relation to music festival safety.”
“All of the interested parties need to start talking to each other about safety, sharing successes and lessons learned.”
The January meeting is one step toward reducing alcohol and drug related harms at music festivals. Based on this “meeting of minds,” some great collaborations are in the works between researchers, policy makers, and event producers. Everyone was passionate about the topic of safer music festivals and there was a lot of interest in continuing the conversation and making some changes to improve safety for attendees.
Based on participant recommendations, a report will be created that summarizes the ideas presented at the meeting (and identifies gaps in existing research). So, stay tuned!
It was a great meeting!