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French biz laments “very partial” Collomb circular annulment

French industry association Prodiss and trade union SMA have deemed the State Council’s recent changes to the controversial Collomb circular as “very partial”, saying they will continue to “defend the sector against the directive”.

Proposed by former interior minister Gérard Collomb in May 2018, the so-called Collomb circular (circulaire Collomb) saw organisers pay the government for the deployment of police at live events, except in the case of terrorist-related incidents.

The idea was met with incredulity across most of the industry, with many citing a drastic increase to security bills as a result.

Under the new changes, organisers no longer have to pay a deposit – equalling 60% to 80% of the total security cost – when agreeing a contract with the state. The annulment also removes a deadline that obliged organisers to complete their payment within a month of an event’s conclusion.

An additional change dictates that an agreement must be signed between organisers and the government in advance of an event, if any law enforcement is to be deployed and billed for.

“Safety is a sovereign matter that should not be dealt with by the organiser of festivals and shows alone”

Although Prodiss and SMA, who took legal action to revoke the circular in 2018, call the partial annulment “a first step against the injustice of the circular”, they state that the key issue of organisers reimbursing the state for security costs has not been called into question.

“Event owners will continue to single handedly bear the costs of all police intervention that is directly associated with their events,” reads a statement from Prodiss and SMA.

“For professionals, safety is a sovereign matter that should not be dealt with by the organisers of festivals and shows alone,” continues the statement. “Our organisations will continue to fight to defend the sector against this directive that weakens its entire cultural and artistic ecosystem.”

The changes to the circular come following the French government’s creation of a new decree last year, which provided funding for security enforcement at live events. The law failed to appease Prodiss and SMA, with event organisers only being spared costs in the case of “exceptional circumstances”.

Photo: Arthur Empereur/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) (cropped)

 


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French biz pushes back against controversial ‘Collomb circular’

French industry associations Prodiss and SMA have initiated legal action to annul the so-called ‘Collomb circular’ (circulaire Collomb), the controversial document that revealed plans to force live events to reimburse the government for the cost of policing.

The proposals, authored by interior minister Gerard Collomb, would see festivals billed for the cost of deploying police and gendarmes for anything other than terror-related incidents – an expense previously borne by the state.

The idea was met with incredulity across most of the industry: the Eurockéennes festival, for example, claimed the plans would see its security bill rise nearly 800%, from €30,000 to €254,000.

In protest, live music association Prodiss and the Syndicat des Musiques Actuelles (SMA), a music-industry trade union, have lodged an appeal with the French court of first instance, the Administrative Tribunal, seeking a reversal of Collomb’s proposals, which SMA claims would “endanger the sustainability of cultural events” by burdening them with “significant” new costs.

“Safety and security are a priority … but it is everyone’s business”

“This circular presented show organisers with a fait accompli,” according to a statement from Prodiss, “even as a consultation was in progress between the government and [event] professionals. None of the feedback from the professionals was taken into account in this decision.

“It is inconceivable that this decision was made without having previously measured the impact on the sector.”

The extra financial burden would be particularly acute as a result of the phasing out of the Emergency Fund for Live Entertainment, instituted following the Bataclan attacks in 2015, which expires at the end of this year, adds SMA.

“Safety and security are a priority; we owe it to our audiences,” comments Malika Séguineau (pictured), CEO of Prodiss. “But it is everyone’s business, and cannot be solely the responsibility of organisers of festivals and shows.”

 


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British festivals have lower crime than UK norm

UK festivals have a far lower crime rate than the average across England and Wales, according to figures obtained by insurance firm Policy Expert.

Using data gathered from Freedom of Information requests sent to police forces countrywide, the company has compiled a report detailing crime rates across British events, printed in the The Times.

London’s Wireless Festival has the highest crime rate of all UK events, with 1 in 531 festival-goers falling victim to pickpocketing last year. According to the stats, around 254 people out of Wireless’ 135,000 2015 attendees reported crimes, equivalent to 0.18% festival-goers.

However, if you compare those numbers to the level of crime that happens across England and Wales generally, it’s actually far lower.

Latest estimates from the Crime Survey for England and Wales put the number of criminal incidents happening against adults for the year ending March 2016 at 6.3 million.

That’s 11.2% of the joint 56.073m population of England and Wales.

In April, Wireless, promoted by Festival Republic, announced new security measures for its 2016 event, taking place in Finsbury Park. The new security strategy included the restructuring and management of key areas, specifically site structure and security, including added roles.

Last year, around £270,000 was reported lost or stolen from people at festivals. Also on Policy Expert’s list was South West Four (where fans have a one in 640 chance of being pick-pocketed), Wilderness (one in 770), The Great Escape (one in 830), Reading (one in 880) and Secret Garden Party (one in 1,100).

At V Festival, one in 10,000 people fell victim to crime, followed by Download and Boardmasters with one in 24,000 and one in 6,000, respectively.

 


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Pill testing: the cure for music’s drug problem?

The issue of drug deaths at dance music festivals was thrust once again into the spotlight this week following a spate of misfortunes for the Hard Summer event in California.

First, relatives of a 19-year-old woman, Katie Dix, who died after taking designer drugs (‘bath salts’) sold as ecstasy at the 2015 festival – one of two fatalities, along with 18-year-old Tracy Nguyen, who died from MDMA “intoxication” – announced they are suing promoter Live Nation for “turning a blind eye to the known risks” of drugs “in order to capitalise on teenagers and young adults who believed they were attending a safe party environment.”

Then news broke that three young people (Derek Lee, 22, Alyssa Dominguez, 21, and Roxanne Ngo, 22) had died at Hard Summer 2016 last weekend, held in the city of Fontana for the first time after being forced out of Los Angeles following the deaths of Dix and Nguyen. Although Hard published a long list of safety precautions prior to the event – and, it should be noted, the causes of death are still undetermined – the fatalities are likely to spark further discussion about what more can be done by festival promoters to keep patrons safe at their events.

While banning drugs at EDM events is a good first step, it’s fast becoming clear that a more radical approach beyond prohibition is needed if the industry is to tackle its growing drug problem

Representatives of a number of major electronic dance music (EDM) festivals, as well as a spokeswoman for Amsterdam Dance Event, were keen to highlight to IQ their events’ zero-tolerance drug policies. However, while banning drugs at such events is a good first step, with close to 30 deaths at EDM festivals since May 2015 others believe that a more radical approach beyond simple prohibition is needed if the industry is to effectively tackle its growing drug problem.

At the Ibiza International Music Summit (IMS) in May, ‘The Future of Our Industry’ panel discussed just that, and the delegates’ consensus was that promoters should work with governments to focus on harm reduction in addition to enforcing drug laws. CAA agent Maria May criticised what she sees as a “double standard” towards drugs in EDM, which she acknowledges are “part of our culture”, and said she’d like to see an “industry standard for things like crowd control, free water and cool-down areas. I’d like to know that if I’m going to a club there are some measures in place for if people get into trouble.”

Tommy Vaudecrane, production director of the Paris Techno Parade festival, blasted France’s “terrible drug policy” and called for a “more mature approach” to preventing drug deaths, including facilitating the testing of drugs to ensure they don’t contain any potentially fatal adulterants. “We don’t have any testing at events,” he explained, [and] you have to be careful in what you say, because if you give information about a specific drug you can be [prosecuted] for inciting people to take it.”

Front-of-house drug, or pill, testing is already in force at events in the Netherlands, Austria and Spain, explains Jon Drape, managing director of Ground Control Productions, whose clients include the Parklife Weekender, Kendal Calling, Live from Jodrell Bank, Lollibop, Festival №6, The Warehouse Project and Snowbombing, and is a “no-brainer” for dance music events serious about minimising the risk of drug-related deaths, he tells IQ.

“I’d like to know that if I’m going to a club there are some measures in place for if people get into trouble”

“Unfortunately, I’ve had to deal with the aftermath and effect of having a drugs fatality” – there were two deaths from PMA-laced ecstasy in 2015 at The Warehouse Project – “and all you want to do is make sure it never happens again,” he says. “I’m sure everyone in the industry will be looking at it [pill testing].”

Kendal Calling, which took place last weekend, was one of two festivals to introduce pill testing this year, following a similar trial a week earlier at Cambridgeshire’s Secret Garden Party (SGP). Both festivals, with the full cooperation of local police forces and public health authorities, partnered with drugs charity The Loop to allow festivalgoers to test drugs at the gate to establish their content.

“We’ve been working for six or seven years with [The Loop co-director] Professor [Fiona] Measham, who has been researching the use of illegal drugs for three decades,” Drape continues. “We started by interviewing festivalgoers about what they consumed, and also did some testing of urine samples to see what drugs they had consumed. It gave us an interesting picture about what festivalgoers were up to, but didn’t give us any way to reduce risk.”

Drape says around 25% of those who tested their drugs at both Kendal Calling and Secret Garden Party opted to bin them after discovering their content. There were 80 “substances of concern” discovered at SGP, including extremely high-strength ecstasy, ‘ketamine’ that was actually an antimalarial and ammonium sulphate – used as a soil fertiliser and insecticide – sold as MDMA.

“Drugs will get onto the site, so it’s our responsibility to make sure people remain safe”

“Drugs will get onto the site, so it’s our responsibility to make sure people remain safe,” says Drape, who adds he’d like to see a similar system introduced at dance music-focused Parklife.

Prof Measham says its Multi Agency Safety Testing (MAST) can “help people make informed choices, raising awareness of dangerous substances in circulation and reducing the chance of drug-related problems occurring” and describes it as “an important innovation that we know can reduce risks and potentially save lives.”

She adds that “other countries in Europe have had testing services like this at events for years; the UK is just catching up, and we are pleased to be part of that evolutionary process”.

While pill testing is, as Prof Measham says, well established in much of Europe and gaining ground in Britain, groups pushing for similar schemes in other major touring and festival markets – notably North America and Australasia – have run into stiff opposition.

“Other countries in Europe have had testing services like this at events for years. The UK is just catching up, and we are pleased to be part of that evolutionary process”

Melissa ‘Missi’ Wooldridge, the director of Denver-based charity DanceSafe, estimates that her organisation tests drugs at fewer than ten US festivals each year (with Backwoods in Oklahoma one of the notable exceptions), and Insomniac CEO Pasquale Rotellas said in his Reddit AMA that it is unlikely to change any time soon: “Unfortunately some people view partnering with DanceSafe as endorsing drug use rather than keeping people safe, and that can prevent producers from getting locations and organising events.

In Australia, meanwhile, the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation is risking prosecution by pushing ahead with plans to introduce pill testing at a number of upcoming Sydney festivals, despite the New South Welsh government declaring the project to be illegal.

In addition to its testing advocacy, DanceSafe is currently lobbying for the scrapping of the US Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act (formerly the Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy, or RAVE, Act), which it says dissuades many event promoters from providing “basic safety measures (ie free water, cool-down space, drug education materials, even the presence of DanceSafe!)” for fear that their presence “prove[s] that they know drug use is present, and make them vulnerable to prosecution”.

Speaking at IMS, Mark Lawrence, CEO of the Association for Electronic Music (AFEM), says a priority for his organisation is to “lobby for change in the legal and political environment for promoters to raise the level of harm reduction they can publicly achieve”. “For the first time in the two years I’ve been at the association, everybody has realised that poor standards of harm reduction and lack of ability for promoters to be open about drug testing or education impacts the entire industry,” he commented.

“I think we need to show drug use exists, and it’s a problem, but that it’s not linked to music or culture – it’s linked to government policy”

There is, of course, no silver bullet – pill testing included – to stop drug deaths at live music events: a significant minority of festivalgoers, especially those at EDM events, are always going to take drugs, and everyone reacts differently to their effects. But pushing for positive change at a governmental level and fostering a culture of openness between promoters, patrons and police and local authorities, as exemplified at Kendal Calling and SGP, is a start.

“I think we need to show [drug use] exists, and it’s a problem, but that it’s not linked to music or culture – it’s linked to government policy,” said Vaudecrane.

“We need to work with organisations to set up a global electronic music policy that includes harm reduction, by saying, ‘Yes, we have drugs, here’s how you take them if you’re going to take them’, and warning people: ‘This is a bad product, don’t take it.'”

 


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SGP becomes first UK fest to offer pill testing

Secret Garden Party (SGP) last weekend became the first British music festival to offer on-site pill testing.

As part of a 10-minute health and safety session provided by drugs charity The Loop and supported by Cambridgeshire police, local public health authorities and festival promoter Secret Productions, festivalgoers were able to submit drugs for testing to establish their content before consumption. Around 200 people did so, discovering over 80 “substances of concern”, including extremely high-strength ecstasy, ‘ketamine’ that was actually an antimalarial and ammonium sulphate – used as a soil fertiliser and insecticide – sold as MDMA.

SGP founder Freddie Fellowes tells The Guardian’s Libby Brooks he is “thrilled” to be a pill testing pioneer. “Harm reduction and welfare is a vital part of hosting any event, and it’s an area that for too long has seen little development or advancement,” he says.

“Around a quarter of people who brought in their drugs asked us to dispose of them… We were taking dangerous substances out of circulation”

Pill testing schemes have already been trialled in festivals in the Netherlands and Germany, although Australian promoters have been warned they could be charged with drug dealing and manslaughter should they try to implement anything similar.

Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst for Transform Drug Policy Foundation, which mediated between SGP and local authorities, praised the scheme’s removal of potentially harmful substances from circulation at the festival.

“Around a quarter of people who brought in their drugs asked us to dispose of them when they discovered that they had been mis-sold or were duds,” he explains. “We were taking dangerous substances out of circulation.”

There were a record number of police at SGP 2016 in response to an increased threat of terror.

 


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No extra police at 10/11 UK festivals this summer

Only one out of the 11 constabularies tasked with policing major British music festivals have increased their presences at this summer’s events, despite warnings they could be terror targets.

Neil Basu, deputy assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan police, said late last month that his force is on “high alert” for potential attacks at large public events this summer, and warned that large concerts and festivals, “where you put a small town into a small area for a couple of hours”, are “right at the top of the agenda”.

An investigation by Sky News’s Lucy Cotter revealed that Cambridgeshire constabulary, which will police the Secret Garden Party near Huntington, is the only police force confirmed to be beefing up the number of officers on duty. The force also revealed that it has sought advice from “counter-terrorism security advisors in relation to the event and the policing of it”.

Cambridgeshire constabulary, which will police the Secret Garden Party near Huntington, is the only police force confirmed to be beefing up the number of officers on duty

Hampshire constabulary declined to comment on the number of police who would be at Bestival and the Isle of Wight Festival, but said it was working together with promoters and local authorities to “prepare for a range of scenarios, including terrorist-related acts”.

Writing for IQ, Ian Carr of Intermedix said earlier this month that many event organisers and venue owners in the UK are unprepared for a major disaster like a terrorist attack, with some still using an archaic “‘post-it note and courier’ system to communicate with key internal and external audiences during emergencies”.

 


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