Controlling Drug Use at Music Festivals

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Cchapter One: Introduction

Background of the Study

The idea of music festivals dates back to centuries considering celebrations like harvest festivals. For example, in the 19th and 20th centuries, jazz and classical music festivals began popping up and appealing to cultured elites across Europe (Square Mile, 2019). As well, music festivals in Europe also have a direct socio-political connection that dates back as early as 1940s. most of the music festivals were meant to voice concerns about problems faced by generations like labor groups and anti-war protests (Square Mile, 2019).

The UK music festivals have their roots in the famous California ‘Summer of Love’ when the Monterey Pop Festival brought a new era of live performance in 1967 (Square Mile, 2019). During this time, Hippie culture exploded without thousands of young people rebuffing societal norms and embracing alternatives. Some of these alternatives entailed feminism, free love, equal rights and freedom for everyone. Thus, music festivals were used to communicate anti-establishment messages across the western world.

Many festivals exist that have shaped the life and perceptions of many generations in the UK. An example is the Glastonbury festival found at the top of the list. The festival is an iconic one having started decades ago. Originally, there Pilton Festival that first ever drew a crowd of 1,500 people. Such festivals have evolved to highlight the UK festival season across years. One encouraging thing about these festivals was the way they connected to the socio-political roots of the society by balancing between commercial with communal (Leenders, 2010). Many of these festivals have posed to create charity partnerships with other social organizations.

In the present day, festivals have changed a great deal, with many being large outdoor music festivals. They have expanded to have more of licensed recreational activities and become largely impenetrable due to commercial sensitivities (Leenders, 2010). The sensitivities have necessitated a greater understanding into issues such as alcohol and drug use during music festivals and the potential to promote normative behaviors in this context. The use of drugs by party goers has changed the whole meaning of the UK music festivals with event managers being put to task to ensure safer drug policies.

Party drug surveys have shown that drug use is popular in nightlife settings. Considering dance events, drug consumption by party-goers is evident from the way they seek medical attention. The debate on drug use in UK music festivals is growing with many focusing on the type of drugs being used and the potential harm that such behavior attracts. The growing concerns have created a need to study the measures that event organizers and other stakeholders establish to ensure that the UK music festivals do not lose meaning.

Problem Statement

From the background provided above, it is clearly evident that music festivals are an established summer leisure activity in the UK (Rudolph, 2016). However, they have an enduring association with drug use because through initiation and experimentation, there has been elevated drug use as well as drug-related harm highly amplified in the festival context. Music festivals in the UK are spacious, temporary, periodically recurring, licensed and conducted in bounded zones. They have strong commercial imperatives and liminal associations that pose distinct challenges to the regulation and policing of drug use. While there are high stakes in ensuring the festivals’ commercial success, the satisfaction of the legal and regulatory framework and ensuring safety of customers remains a challenge. Vast literature presents the whole picture of the way drugs are policed at festivals but little is known on the specific contributions of event managers especially concerning drug policy and practice. Through an extensive analysis of literature, the research study aims to examine ways in which event organizers work together to control drug use at UK music festivals. The study roots down to how festivals implement drug policy, laws and regulations.

Research Objectives

The main objective of the research study is to establish how event managers control drug use at music festivals in the UK. Specifically, the research study aims to meet the following objectives:

  1. To establish the level of drug use in music festivals in the UK
  2. To establish the mechanism that event managers put in place to control drug use in the UK
  3. To establish the challenges that event managers encounter while controlling drug use in the UK.

Research Questions

The study aims to answer the following research questions:

  1. a) Statistically, what is the level of drug use in music festivals in the UK
  2. b) Which mechanism do event managers put in place to control drug use in the UK
  3. c) Which challenges do event managers encounter while controlling drug use in the UK

Justification of the Study

The rationale for this study draws back from the pressure coming from the broader community (government, police, alcohol licensing bodies and industry associations) on the challenge of managing alcohol and drug use in events and venue settings. As well, there has been increased number of incidents of individual harm, violence and community disruption that have occurred in and around event settings. The situation has created the need to identify and understand the potential factors that event managers can use to produce positive outcomes alongside practices that can help minimize negative incidents.

Significance of the Study

Day et al (2018) conducted a study that confirms that most of the festival attendees are aged 18-30 years. The age bracket is a sensitive one. The study reports that festival attendees falling within the age of 18-30 have a history of illicit drug use thus always need free drug checking at festivals. Sullum (2014), a contributor to the Forbes magazine, confirms that there is need to for event managers to use common sense measures to help reduce the harm caused by drug use at the events. Therefore, a study into the measures that event managers apply and ought to apply, plus solutions to the challenges they face while doing so will be vital in saving the lives of many young people in the UK and across the globe (Day et al, 2018). With the significance that the music festivals bear, there is need for a proper study into how drug use can be managed so bring back the prestigious relevance of music festivals that existed in the past.


  1. Square Mile. (2019). A brief history of UK music festivals. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Apr. 2019].
  2. Leenders, M. (2010). The relative importance of the brand of music festivals: a customer equity perspective. Journal of Strategic Marketing, 18(4), pp.291-301.
  3. Rowley, J. and Williams, C. (2008). The impact of brand sponsorship of music festivals. Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 26(7), pp.781-792.
  4. Rudolph, K. F. (2016). ""The Importance of Music Festivals: An Unanticipated and Underappreciated Path to Identity Formation”. University Honors Program Theses. 216
  5. Day, N., Criss, J., Griffiths, B., Gujral, S., John-Leader, F., Johnston, J. and Pit, S. (2018). Music festival attendees’ illicit drug use, knowledge and practices regarding drug content and purity: a cross-sectional survey. Harm Reduction Journal, 15(1).
  6. Sullum, J. (2014). Ignoring Drug Use at Musical Events Only Makes It More Dangerous. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Apr. 2019].
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Controlling Drug Use At Music Festivals. (2021, Apr 07). Retrieved May 22, 2024 , from

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