At 9am on Monday 5th May 2014, 24 UK festivals including T in the Park, Bestival, Secret Garden Party, Lovebox, Global Gathering, Parklife and Sonisphere will conduct a digital blackout across their websites and social media, throwing their homepages into darkness for a day to raise awareness of the dangers of legal highs. The participating festivals have a combined capacity of over five hundred thousand and an online reach well into the millions.
Music fans arriving at the homepages of the participating festivals will be met with a completely black window except for a grey light bulb and the message ‘Don’t be in the Dark about Legal Highs’. Upon clicking on the light bulb, information on legal highs will appear (see below) and the user will be able to either click through to find out more, or navigate to the regular festival homepage. Many of the festivals’ social media profiles will also feature the light bulb as their main profile picture.
The initiative has been put together by UK festivals trade body, the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), who are working with Angelus Foundation, a charity set up exclusively to educate individuals about the risks of legal highs. The initiative is expected to become an annual event.
The full list of festivals participating is T in the Park, Bestival, Lovebox, Global Gathering, Secret Garden Party, Sonisphere, We Are FSTVL, 2000trees, ArcTanGent, Kendal Calling, Festibelly, Blissfields, Truck, Brownstock, Y Not Festival, Tramlines, Belladrum Tartan Heart, Leefest, Nozstock, Wakestock, Shambala, Glasgow Summer Sessions, Parklife and Eden Sessions.
A key focus of the campaign is to dispel the misconception that ‘legal’ equates to ‘safe’, and the trends are worrying – last year’s ONS report showed an 80% increase of deaths from legal highs from 29 to 52. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction identified over 280 psychoactive synthetic substances as not being covered by existing drug laws, with regulation unable to keep pace with the number of new substances entering the market. Health researchers have described taking legal highs as like ‘Dancing in a minefield’.
AIF stands against the sale of these substances at festivals and members are supporting this stance by banning the sale of legal highs by traders onsite at their events. This position is aligned with the approach of major festival promoters such as DF Concerts (T in the Park, Glasgow Summer Sessions) who have also banned the sale of such substances onsite– the issue unites the entire industry.