Strawberry Fields Faces 'Ongoing Battle' To Stop Punters From Getting 'Reckless'

27 October 2015 | 3:39 pm | Neil Griffiths

Festival directors talks on the issue.

Just weeks out from New South Wales' annual Strawberry Fields music festival, director Tara Benney has spoken exclusively to theMusic in regards to the ongoing battles music events face today in relation to alcohol and drugs.

Commenting on the issue Benney said, "Festivals are an incredible social catalyst – they can bring you some of the most rewarding and inspiring experiences of your life, but sometimes people open themselves up so fast they can get reckless."

"What stresses us out today is people making decisions they might regret, especially driving under the influence."

In the last three years, Strawberry Fields has come under scrutiny for a number of drug busts at the event. In 2012, 55 punters were caught with drugs and 41 charges were made. In 2013, 77 were charged with drug possession, while 35 penalty notices were issued for traffic related offences and at last year's festival, 56 drug detections were found and 40 charges were made. 

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In an effort to combat the issue, Benney noted some key organisations the festival are teaming with to curb the trend.

"Dancewise, BlowMeFirst and the local emergency services are all critical in addressing the issue," she explained. 

"Prior to the event we consult with emergency services on how we can tackle the problem, the right messaging to address festival-goers with regarding safe driving practices. At the event itself, Dancewise provides critical harm minimisation information and BlowMeFirst conducts drug and alcohol testing services, and on Sunday when vehicles start departing the venue we provide the first 500 vehicles with a free breath test."

"We definitely have a much more collaborative relationship with the emergency services who are stakeholders in the event. We work together on talking points and messaging to try and make sure that festivalgoers truly understand the risks to both themselves, their passengers and the community, in driving intoxicated. But it’s an ongoing battle and we are aiming for continuous improvement."