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Policing UK Music Festivals.

Andy Robertson

Large capacity music festivals attracting large numbers of visitors are no different from a small town and therefore are subject to the same policing issues any similar sized community experiences. In granting licences for a music festival to go ahead local authorities always make it conditional on close cooperation with local police forces. 


Although the police presence at a music festival is often viewed with suspicion by festival-goers their role is primarily to support to the organisers of the event to ensure it’s a safe event for everyone. As in any community there can be criminal activity on a festival site over its duration and typically would include theft, assault, drug related offences and disorderly behaviour for example.

Aside from regular patrolling by police officers a large event will usually have a fixed pitch where festival-goers can obtain information or report any suspected criminal activity. The police work closely with organisers and all other emergency services to ensure any safety matters are fully covered. Typically, the police will also provide information on how to report a crime, crime prevention advice and other policing issues.

Festival organisers work closely with local police before, during and after the event to ensure that all eventualities are appropriately planned for including managing evacuation, avoiding congestion and overcrowding plus robust procedures for medical emergencies. Fully documented processes and procedures relating to every aspect of the festival's organisation will be shared with local police. Policing can extend beyond the festival site and will include local traffic management and cooperating with local residents to ensure the smooth running of the festival.

The biggest contentious issue for festival-goers and the police is the policing of drug related crimes. The official line from most police forces is that their drugs policy at festivals will mirror their policy for the rest of the force at any other given time of the year. This policy means that they will not tolerate anyone with illegal substances and those found with drugs will be dealt with appropriately and proportionately. This could include being evicted from the site or being arrested.

All visitors entering a festival site will usually be subject to a search by the organiser's own security staff who work closely with the police to find prohibited items. The use of sniffer dogs and random checks are also common during a festival and the police encourage festival-goers to report anyone they suspect is supplying drugs on site. The effectiveness of policing to prevent substance abuse at any music festival is limited because the number of users can be significant. In recent years there has been a move towards a more proactive approach to prevent dangerous drugs from being consumed that can lead to fatalities. In some cases, sniffer dogs have been replaced by amnesty bins, welfare tents and on-site drug testing. This leads to an environment in which festival-goers can feel safe and has shown good results in terms of harm reduction. 

For organisers planning their festivals using a software management platform like Festival Pro gives them all the functionality they need manage every aspect of their event logistics. The guys who are responsible for this software have been in the front line of event management for many years and the features are built from that experience and are performance artists themselves. The Festival Pro platform is easy to use and has comprehensive features with specific modules for managing artists, contractors, venues/stages, vendors, volunteers, sponsors, guestlists, ticketing, cashless payments and contactless ordering.

Image by ShepherdMedia from Pixabay

Andy Robertson
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