A festival is a community and we all need to play a part in keeping each other safe. Stick with your mates and look after each other. Make sure that no one is left to walk home alone at night.
Just like in any nightclub, bar or pub, be aware and remain alert so that you don’t become a target.
Theft & Robbery
- Leave unnecessary valuables at home. If you need to bring expensive items, check if there are secure lockers available to store them.
- Beware of pick pockets and don’t keep valuables in outside pockets whilst in crowds. It’s better to keep them in a bumbag or money belt rather than a rucksack.
- Never leave valuable items in your tent when you are not there. Thieves sometimes unzip tents or cut holes in them to grab things that are easily accessible. When you are sleeping, keep valuables in the bottom of your sleeping bag.
- Try to avoid taking large sums of cash with you and instead use the machines on site or check in advance if traders will take card payments.
- Some festivals now run 'cashless', allowing you to load your wristband with credit in advance. Check with your event if this is available and don't forget to load up before you go.
- You can register your valuables with Immobilise, the UK national property register. This may improve the chances of getting them back if they are lost or stolen.
Antisocial Behaviour & Violence
Wherever there are large crowds gathering together with lots of intoxicated people, perceptions can be distorted, inhibitions reduced and sometimes minor tensions can escalate.
- If you see trouble brewing, walk away and don’t get involved. Look for a member of security staff and report it - prevention is better than trying to resolve a problem afterwards.
- Consider how your own behaviour could be interpreted and be sensitive to the fact that when people are intoxicated things can be taken the wrong way.
- If you have a friend that sometimes acts up when they are partying, find a good time to have a word with them beforehand about how to behave.
- If you spot a friend behaving badly and you think trouble could be brewing, try and calmly take them out of the situation before things escalate. Festival sites are huge! You don’t need to stick around in one place if you feel uncomfortable.
Sexual Assault & Harassment
All festivals have a zero-tolerance policy towards any kind of sexual assault or harassment. Sexual assault can happen anywhere and to anyone. There is no evidence to suggest that more of these incidents take place at festivals, but organisers take this issue incredibly seriously in their planning and practices. These include the provision of welfare services, 24 hour security on campsites and arenas and close working relationships with police and other relevant agencies.
It is never the victim’s fault, but there are things you can do stay safe and look after each other. Festivals are places to meet new people and make friends but stay alert and try to avoid putting yourself in situations where you are alone in secluded locations with people you don’t know. Stay in groups when walking around at night and stick to well-lit paths.
The Association of Independent Festivals Safer Spaces at Festivals campaign encourages festival goers to play an active role in promoting safety, with three key messages:
1. Zero Tolerance to Sexual Assault
Sexual assault is never ok. If you or any of your friends experience this kind of behaviour you should report it immediately and know that it will be taken very seriously by police and event organisers. It doesn’t matter if you are intoxicated, you will be listened to and given the support you need.
2. Hands Off Unless Consent
Consent means agreeing to do something. When it comes to sex, this means someone agreeing to take part in a sexual activity. Any form of sexual contact without consent is illegal whatever the age of the people involved. If you do not give consent and a person still engages in a sexual act, this is sexual assault or rape. Legally speaking, people who are drunk or under the influence of drugs can’t consent to any kind of sexual activity. Remember you shouldn’t ever feel pressured into any kind of sexual activity. It’s ok to say no or change your mind.
3. Be an Active Bystander
If you witness any kind of sexual assault don’t just ignore it. An active bystander is someone who responds effectively to harmful behaviour and provides support. Be a friendly face in the crowd and help look after each other.
The 5 Ds of how to be an active bystander:
- DIRECT - directly intervene in the situation
- DISTRACT - take an indirect approach to deescalate the situation and interrupt what is happening
- DELEGATE - get help from someone else to intervene
- DOCUMENT the situation as it is happening
- DELAY - after the incident has happened check in with the person who was harmed.
Safety and protection is important, but there also needs to be a focus on the cause and prevention of harassment and assault. Read more about creating Safer Spaces at festivals here.
Spiking is when someone puts alcohol or other drugs into a person’s drink or body without their knowledge or consent. Someone may be spiked by an individual who is trying to incapacitate them in order to commit a crime including sexual assault or robbery.
The most coming substance used to spike people is alcohol but people can also be spiked with illegal or prescription drugs.
According to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 spiking someone with the intention of overpowering them to enable sexual activity is a serious criminal offence which carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years, whether or not an assault actually took place.
UK law prohibits you from being in possession of illegal drugs and therefore bringing them to festivals. All festivals will have strict security measures in place which may include full searches on arrival and drug detection or ‘sniffer’ dogs. For larger events, police sometimes search people before they arrive on site at train stations or other stop off points. If you are found in possession of drugs you may be arrested and are liable to prosecution and/or may not be allowed to go into the festival. If you are found with drugs once on site, you may be ejected and/or arrested.
Read more about understanding the law as well as harm reduction advice on alcohol and other drugs.
Drink & Drug Driving
If you are the nominated driver you need to be fit and capable to drive you and your mates home safely. If you are stopped by police, they have tests for drink and drug driving. If you test positive, you could get a fine, a ban and even a prison sentence. Worse still, if you are involved in an accident you could seriously injure or kill someone.
One in five convicted drink drivers are caught the ‘morning after the night before’ so make sure you leave enough time to sober up before you have to drive. If you have been drinking until very late, you might feel ok in the morning, but could still be over the legal alcohol limit. There is no way to get rid of alcohol any faster; having a coffee, a shower or other ways of ‘sobering up’ are myths.
When Can I Drive?
The legal limit in the UK is 80 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood but any amount of alcohol affects your ability to drive safely. The legal drink drive limit can’t be safely converted into a certain number of drinks as it depends on lots of things such as your gender, weight, how much you’ve eaten and stress levels.
• it takes an hour for alcohol to be absorbed into the system
• a pint would take another two hours to leave your system - stronger beers and ciders will take even longer
• a large glass of wine would take four hours to leave your system
• a single measure of a spirit would take about an hour.
It is possible to buy disposable home breathalysers to bring in the car with you but if you’re at all unsure about whether you are fit to drive, delay your journey, don’t risk it.
If you’re a party animal who wants to stay up drinking till 3 am on the last night – maybe you’re not the best person to be the designated driver! Find an alternative way to travel.
Terrorist attacks are rare in the UK, but recent events have shown that an attack could happen anywhere and without warning. Places where large groups of people gather, like festivals, are potential targets. Staying as calm as possible and knowing how to react in an emergency is important.
- Arrive early at events to allow time for extra security measures.
- Be patient with security checks and help the staff to help you. It might be inconvenient but they are there to keep you safe.
- Pack light, this will help to speed up searches and getting in.
- If you spot someone acting suspiciously, report it to police or to security staff immediately, don't leave it to someone else #ActionCountersTerrorism.
- In an emergency, if you think there is an immediate risk, always call 999 and look around you for help from security or stewards - especially those with radios who can raise the alarm quickly.
- Don't leave bags unattended or anywhere they could cause a security scare.
- Never agree to look after a stranger’s bags, no matter how plausible their story.
- If there is an incident, try not to panic, listen to staff and any announcements. Organisers will have emergency plans to help you keep safe.
- During an incident, people sometimes think that filming on phones would be good to provide evidence for police but your safety is always the main priority, do not put yourself at risk.
- Always keep some charge in your phone so that you can make a call or be contacted in an emergency.
Remember, the chance of being caught in a terrorist incident is small but if it happens - RUN, HIDE, TELL.
The CitizenAID App
When there is any kind of mass casualty incident there can sometimes be a delay in the time before the emergency services can reach the injured. The citizenAID app gives you practical advice on how to be effective before the emergency services arrive. It is designed to guide you to react safely, to pass effective messages to the emergency services, to prioritise the injured and to give life-saving first aid. You can find out more and download the app here.
More information about being drink aware and drink driving limits.
More information around drink driving.
All festivals have slightly different rules. If you have any questions you should contact the organisers of the event that you are going to. Visit the event website for details of how to get in touch.
Festival Safe is aimed at people heading to UK festivals. Much of the information you'll find here will be useful wherever your event is being held, but if you are heading to an overseas event remember that rules, and in particular the law, can be different in other countries.