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Portsmouth cancels more events following Mutiny Festival deaths

By | Published on Thursday 31 May 2018


Portsmouth City Council has cancelled this weekend’s Bandstand festival in Southsea, following two drug-related deaths at the nearby Mutiny Festival last weekend. Councillors cited fears that a dangerous batch of drugs remains in circulation.

Georgia Jones and Tommy Cowan fell ill within minutes of each other at the Mutiny Festival on Saturday night, both later dying. Concerns had previously been raised about there being a “dangerous high-strength or bad-batch substance” on site. Three people were later arrested on suspicion of supplying class A drugs, and the second day of the festival was cancelled “as a safety precaution”.

Now, according to Portsmouth newspaper The News, other events due to take place in the city are being cancelled over fears of more deaths. The council has confirmed that Bandstand will not go ahead this weekend, and a fundraising event for the Undercover Skatepark Project has also been pulled.

Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson told the newspaper: “We have fears there is likely to be more of the drugs that killed the people at Mutiny. We had specific concerns with Bandstand having open access to people with no tickets where dealers could just walk in and sell drugs. It was also felt that with the type of music at this weekend’s event being similar to Mutiny there could be similar behaviour from those attending”.

Bandstand organiser Nick Courtney added: “We fully accept the decision to cancel the event after what happened at Mutiny. I dare say it was a decision they didn’t take lightly. It’s a question of making sure everyone is safe. The council has made this decision for the greater good. We will have a replacement event but it may not be the same line-up we had planned for this weekend. I’m sure people will understand the reasons why this decision has been made”.

Undercover Skatepark’s Jake Skinner commented: “It is heartbreaking what happened at Mutiny. People’s wellbeing needs to be a priority. We invested a lot of time and money into our event and were really looking forward to it, but no one wants a repeat of what happened last weekend. We will rearrange our event for a later date which we plan on making bigger and better when it goes ahead”.

Of course safety concerns over dangerous drugs are valid in this case, although shutting down festivals is clearly not a long-term solution.

According to reports, some who attended Mutiny have said that access to drinking water on site was limited after 4pm, and that not all drinking water taps were working. Festival organisers have denied this. Terms and conditions printed on tickets also limited festival-goers to bringing a maximum water bottle size of 500ml with them.

Whether or not the claims about water provision at Mutiny are valid, ensuring easy access to water is one of a number of practical measures promoters and local authorities should prioritise in order to make their events safer.

Fiona Measham of drug-testing charity The Loop – which advocates various harm prevention measures at festivals and clubs – told The Guardian: “[People] were contacting us to say there was a real problem accessing water and that the pumps were not working properly and water was dripping out. There were big queues around the pump and also people queuing in the sun to get in [to the festival]”.

“There is a bigger learning point here about what festivals can do to make sure people have more access to water”, she continued. “Why are they restricting access to how much water you can bring on site in first place? I don’t think there should be restrictions on that”.

She added that this criticism was not limited to Mutiny Festival, and that “all festivals should have better water provision”.