The safety-first initiative was a collaboration between Cambridgeshire council, local police and charity The Loop.
The initiative, a collaboration between local police, local councils and drugs safety charity The Loop, was rolled out at last weekend's 2016 edition, which ran from July 21st through 24th at a farm in Abbots Ripton, Cambridgeshire. It's the first time the service has been offered at an event of this kind in the UK—in the past, The Loop has only had access to substances dropped in amnesty bins, or obtained via police or paramedics.
"For the first time we've been able to offer the testing service to individual users as part of a tailored advice and information package provided by a team of experienced drugs workers," The Loop co-founder Fiona Measham told The Guardian. "This can help people make informed choices, raising awareness of particularly dangerous substances in circulation and reducing the chance of drug-related problems occurring."
Roughly 200 people made use of the tests. More than 80 substances of concern were found, including super-strength ecstasy pills and dodgy batches of MDMA and ketamine. Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst for Transform Drug Policy Foundation, was influential in brokering the deal with local authorities. "Around a quarter of people who brought in their drugs then asked us to dispose of them when they discovered that they had been mis-sold or were duds. We were taking dangerous substances out of circulation. Until the laws are reformed, testing and encouraging safer drug use is the least we can do. We hope this groundbreaking service becomes the norm for all such events. It is now up to others to follow, to protect the health and safety of their customers. In truth it would be negligent for them not to."
The festival, which has run annually since 2004, was also vocal in its support of the service. "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," said SGP founder Fred Fellowes. Caribou, Air and DJ Shadow were among the acts who performed at Secret Garden Party in 2016.