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Third Summer of Love? Illegal raves on the rise in UK

Thousands of Britons are believed to have attended illegal, non-socially distanced ‘quarantine raves’ on Friday and Saturday (12–13 June), prompting concerns of a spike in new Covid-19 infections.

In scenes that looked more like the late-80s heyday of acid house than the locked-down Britain of 2020, ravers defied restrictions on gatherings of more than six people to drink, dance and get far too close to one another at unlicensed parties in woodland near cities including Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Oxford and Lichfield, Staffordshire.

The largest parties were in Manchester, with an estimated 6,000 people believed to have attended two raves, in Daisy Nook Country Park and near Carrington, a village in Trafford, on Saturday night. The illegal events were roundly condemned after one person died of a suspected drug overdose in the country park, and two men were stabbed and a woman raped in Carrington.

Sacha Lord, founder of Parklife festival and Manchester’s night-time economy adviser, described those who attended as a “disgrace” who have put themselves and their loved ones at infection.

Social media video from the Daisy Nook event appears to show revellers dancing and inhaling nitrous oxide, while a banner above the DJ booth is emblazoned ‘quarantine rave’:

“Gathering for an illegal rave at a local beauty spot is something that would be rightly condemned at any time, for the danger it places people in and the mess that is left for others to clean up,” says the leader of Oldham Council, Sean Fielding, “though for this to happen in the middle of a global coronavirus pandemic adds an entirely new dimension to how irresponsible and selfish this gathering was.

“Gathering in these numbers under these circumstances has put many more people at risk of harm than just those present.”

In Brookhay Woods, near Lichfield, one raver was arrested after spitting at a police officer, according to Staffordshire Police, while the event near Leeds forced road closures after partygoers left the area by walking along motorways.

“DIY alternatives are being organised by opportunists, using unscrupulous suppliers who are purely focused on financial gain with no regard for safety”

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), has called for those organising or supplying services to illegal raves to be blacklisted by the industry.
“Small house parties and raves have been bubbling under the surface of society for many years now, but the current situation under lockdown has intensified this, as young people search for alternatives and continue in a struggle to cope with the current restrictions on their lives due to the pandemic,” he says.

“The night-time economy and events sector provide safe spaces for young people to express themselves, but are currently unable to open, DIY alternatives are being organised by opportunists, using unscrupulous suppliers who are purely focused on financial gain, with no regard for the safety of those attending. The terrible incidents this weekend at an illegal rave in Manchester resulted in several serious incidents and the sad death of a young man from a drug overdose.

“The NTIA does not condone this kind of activity in any way, as this behaviour adds to an already challenging reputation for the night-time economy and events sector sector with regulators. Operators and suppliers breaking the law for profit and encouraging illegal raves should be blacklisted.

“Thousands of promoters and venues remain closed to save lives and the NHS [National Health Service], while struggling to maintain their businesses while a small minority are now running illegal events jeopardising the hard work and sacrifice of others.”

 


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Coronavirus forces end of Love Parade inquiry

A regional court in Germany has ordered a definitive end to the trial of the organisers of the 2010 Love Parade festival.

The current trial began in December 2017 after previous legal proceedings cleared the defendants – four employees of festival promoter Lopavent and six of the city of Duisburg, in North Rhine-Westphalia – of any wrongdoing.

While prosecutors said at the start of the trial they were confident of securing prosecutions, the impact of the coronavirus means that reaching a verdict before the ten-year statute of limitations expires in July would be impossible, Duisburg regional court ruled. The trial lasted 184 days, according to Deutsche Welle.

Twenty-one people died, and more than 650 were injured, on 24 July 2010 in a crush in a tunnel that served as the sole entrance to the long-running techno festival. Over a million people are said to have attended the 2010 event, which was held at a former goods yard in Duisburg with a capacity of around 250,000.

The victims included festivalgoers from Spain, Australia, Italy, Bosnia-Herzegovina, China and the Netherlands.

 


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Australian Festival Association: Drug policy “endangering lives”

The newly formed Australian Festival Association (AFA) has written to government urging urgent drug policy reform following the deaths of several Australian festivalgoers over the Christmas period.

Suspected drug-related fatalities over the festive period – mid-summer in Australia, and the height of its festival season – include a 19-year-old man, Callum Brosnan, at Knockout Games of Destiny in Sydney, a 20-year-old man at Beyond the Valley in Larnder, near Melbourne, and a 22-year-old man, Joshua Tam, at Lost Paradise in Glenworth Valley.

Despite the deaths – and a pill testing trial at last year’s Groovin the Moo that was hailed an “overwhelming success” by harm-reduction campaigners – the government of New South Wales (NSW), which contains Sydney and the Glenworth Valley, has once again rejected industry calls for permitting drug testing at live music events.

“The government position is quite clear on pill testing: We oppose the use of illegal drugs at these festivals,” NSW planning minister Anthony Roberts told reporters in Sydney. “We appeal to you, just enjoy the festival and do it without taking drugs.”

“Encouraging drug abstinence instead of education is out-of-touch, proven to be ineffective and unnecessarily risking lives”

In an open letter to Australia’s six state premiers and two chief ministers, the AFA today warned that by continuing to “encourag[e] drug abstinence instead of education”, the country’s decision-makers are endangering festivalgoers’ lives.

The AFA, which launched in December, represents Australian festival producers, promoters, organisers and operators. Its 2019 board is Jessica Ducrou (Splendour in the Grass, Falls Festival, Download), Adelle Robinson (Listen Out, Listen In, Field Day, Harbourlife, Curve Ball), Danny Rogers (Laneway), Matthew Lazarus-Hall (CMC Rocks) and Rod Little (Groovin the Moo, the Plot).

Read the AFA’s open letter in full below.

 


We are deeply saddened to hear of the deaths at Australian festivals during the recent holiday period and our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives. Our thoughts are also with the medical, festival, production, security and law enforcement staff who were on the ground when these tragedies occurred.

Drug use is a complex issue and the current policies and strategies of our state and territory governments are needlessly endangering lives. Be it abuse of prescription medications, MDMA use at festivals or the devastating impact of ice [methamphetamine] on some of our regional communities, drug use is a national health issue that impacts many Australian families. We need to better understand drug use behaviour, identify significant intervention points, better coordinate between regulators, health, police, businesses and broader communities, and make sure that the health and safety of Australians is the ultimate priority.

As festival promoters, the last thing we want is someone to be hurt under our care. We need to be able to legally implement preventative strategies, not just reactive ones, and include any harm minimization [sic] tools that are available. We believe, and have evidence to support, that a combination of robust harm minimization strategies will help Australians make safer choices and reduce the harmful impacts of drug use on festival-goers and the broader community. This necessarily involves a collaborative, multi-layered approach of drug education, peer-to-peer support, pill-testing, health services and policing.

We ask state and territory governments across Australia to:

We do not believe that pill-testing is the only answer. But it is a crucial part of a broader harm reduction strategy that prioritises people’s health and safety, over criminality or laws. Encouraging drug abstinence instead of education is out-of-touch, proven to be ineffective and unnecessarily risking lives. Young people deserve better. Older people deserve better. Families deserve better.

We implore Premier Berejiklian, Premier Andrews, Premier Marshall, Premier McGowan, Premier Palaszczuk, Premier Hodgman, Chief Minister Gunner and Chief Minister Barr to be open to better ideas and to work with experts on making festivals safer for everyone.

 


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Italian biz “speechless” after Lanterna Azzurra tragedy

Italy’s live music business is in mourning after six people, five of them teenagers, lost their lives in a stampede at packed nightclub in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Up to 120 people were injured after one concertgoer – reportedly a 17-year-old male, since apprehended and now in police custody – released a pepper spray-like “stinging” substance in the Lanterna Azzurra (Blue Lantern) venue in Corinaldo, in the province of Ancona, at around midnight GMT (1am local time) on 8 December, according to local media.

The incident occurred before a planned concert by Sfera Ebbasta, an Italian rapper popular with teenages, and coincided with the start of Roman Catholic holiday the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Five of the dead – three boys and two girls – were aged between 14 and 16, while the fifth was a 39-year-old woman who had taken her daughter to the show, according to police.

“We were dancing when we were struck by a pungent odour that burned our eyes,” one teenage attendee told Sky Italy.

“We were dancing when we were struck by a pungent odour that burned our eyes”

Writing on social media, Ebbasta said he “[doesn’t] want to pass judgment on those responsible”, but added: “I’d like everybody to pause and think about how dangerous and stupid it can be to use pepper spray in a discotheque.” He also offered his “love and support” to victims’ families.

Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini has suggested there could have been “more people inside [the club] than was permissible”, and Ancona chief prosecutor Monica Garulli told reporters at the scene that about 1,400 tickets had been sold for the show, against a capacity of 870. Ancona’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, who visited the scene of the tragedy, later said that while Lanterna Azzurra had three rooms, it chose to only use one, which has a capacity of 469.

However, Marco Cecchini, one of the three managers of the venue, disputes the authorities’ version of events. Speaking to QN, he says: “There were not 1,400 people, as everyone is saying. Absolutely. In my opinion, there were no more than a thousand – even taking into account those who were outside smoking, inside there were little more than 800. It is a club that has contained a lot more people.”

In a statement, Italian concert promoters’ association Assomusica says the deaths have left the country “speechless”.

“[How can it be] possible for a moment of joy and socialising to turn into sadness and the loss of young lives?” asked the association. “Assomusica and all its members share the pain […] of the families involved in this tragedy.”

“How is it possible that a moment of joy and socialising could turn into sadness and the loss of young lives?”

It adds that it invites “all our members and artists, from today, to pause for a moment of reflection at the beginning of each show” to remember the victims.

Federico Rasetti, director of venues association KeepOn Live, says it is important what happened in Corinaldo, at an allegedly overcrowded show, is not conflated with the country’s live music scene as a whole, which is professional and organised.

“This entire sector, again, is likely to be misunderstood,” says Rasetti. “Live club shows and festivals are generally well organised, and specialised in producing events […], and just as often these tragedies occur in places where there is no live music.”

He further notes that Lanterna Azzurra is not a dedicated music venue, adding: “We need clarity, to ensure that public opinion and politics do not confuse a live music venue with a pub or a disco.”

Investigations into the tragedy are still ongoing. At press time, two more men had been arrested in connection with the stampede, and police are considering the possibility that the substance was sprayed as cover for robbing club-goers.

 


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Drugs deaths could signal end for Oz Defqon.1 fest

State authorities in New South Wales are calling for dance festival Defqon.1 to be banned after two people died from suspected drugs overdoses and hundreds more had to seek medical help for drug-related problems.

Joseph Pham, 23, from Sydney was named as one of the victims, while an as yet unnamed 21-year-old woman from Melbourne also died. There have been other deaths at the Sydney festival in 2013 and 2015.

Police in the state report that 13 people required hospital treatment, with three people still in a critical condition, while on site, 700 revellers were seen by medics at the festival. The situation prompted NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian to brand the event as unsafe and call for it to be banned from ever taking place in Sydney again.

Organisers Q-Dance Australia say they are cooperating with the authorities. The company’s website outlines its zero tolerance drug policy and carries warnings such as, “We want to make you aware that the use of illicit substances carries a range of health risks including the possibility of death, and is strictly forbidden at this event.”

Despite this and informing the 30,000 visitors that there would be “a strong police, drug dog and security presence upon entry into the event to ensure everyone’s safety and wellbeing,” the warnings apparently went unheeded, prompting drug testing advocates to slam government officials for their ‘head in the sand’ approach to dealing with drugs use.

“We still have young people dying needlessly because we’re doing the same old thing over and over again and we have the mechanisms that we know keep people alive.”

“I’m absolutely aghast at what has occurred,” Berejiklian said in a statement. “I don’t want any family to go through the tragedy that some families are waking up to this morning. It’s just horrible to think about.” She added, “This is an unsafe event and I’ll be doing everything I can to make sure it never happens again.”

However, Berejiklian’s ‘just say no’ stance on drugs has been criticised as dangerous, while the government’s policies on drugs has been labelled as ineffective by doctors and campaigners.

Kieran Palmer of the Ted Noffs Foundation, told morning TV show Today the deaths made it clear the government’s approach of “just say no” is not working. “The difficulty now that we face is that we’ve been handling this with the same approach for such a long time,” said Palmer. “We live in one of the most privileged countries in the world and we still have young people dying needlessly because we’re doing the same old thing over and over again and we have the mechanisms that we know keep people alive.”

Advocating on-site drug testing programmes, he added, “We have the evidence. Shutting down festivals, getting tough on drugs, telling kids to ‘just say no’ doesn’t work. It doesn’t change behaviour.”

 


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