Dad of tragic teen Megan Bell backs idea to let people test drugs at music festivals

Megan Bell's dad Chris.
Megan Bell's dad Chris.

The dad of a teenage girl who died at a music festival says the news that revellers will able to test their drugs before they take them at such events is a “step in the right direction”.

For the first time this summer, Reading and Leeds Festivals and a number of other live music events are aiming to introduce the testing of illegal drugs for attendees with the support of local police forces.

The photo of Megan Bell, 17, from Seaham, died at T in the Park in July 2016.

The photo of Megan Bell, 17, from Seaham, died at T in the Park in July 2016.

Melvin Benn, head of Live Nation subsidiary Festival Republic, revealed he expects the pioneering scheme to be used at “between six and 10 festivals this year”.

Benn, who also organises Latitude, V Festival, Wireless and a host of other events, has been working on the plan since last summer and is awaiting confirmation of support from West Yorkshire Police (WYP) and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).

Festival-goers will be able to take their drugs to a testing tent run by The Loop, an organisation which usually conducts forensic testing of drugs seized by police.

They will then tell them what is in the drugs before destroying whatever was handed over.

Festivalgoers watch the main stage at T in the Park at Strathallan Castle, Perthshire, last year.

Festivalgoers watch the main stage at T in the Park at Strathallan Castle, Perthshire, last year.

The idea to use the service has been backed by the father of Megan Bell, who died at last year’s T in the Park Festival in Scotland in July last year.

Megan, a former St Anthony’s Catholic Girls Academy pupil from Seaham, was one of three deaths linked to last summer’s festival, which has since announced a hiatus.

An inquest review for the 17-year-old, who had been due to begin work as an apprentice hairdresser on her return from the festival, has also been held.

The last hearing was told a report from Police Scotland was pending, but no details were given this time in relation to any investigations, while the opening heard the drug known as ecstasy was found in her system.

Her family have said she was not a drug user.

On hearing of this latest move by the authorities, Megan’s dad Chris, 45, said: “We don’t know the ins and outs of what happened with Megan but I think this is a step in the right direction.

“I didn’t realise how widespread drug-taking was at festivals until we looked into things as I’d never been to one, but there are going to be people taking drugs at all of them.

“The ideal scenario of course is that people don’t take them in the first place, but if they are, then there should be somewhere where people can have them looked at.

“I’ve heard of places like the Netherlands that have brought this in and I definitely think it’s a good idea.”

Last year, The Loop ran the scheme for the first time at a UK music festival when around 200 revellers tested their illegal drugs at Secret Garden Party in Cambridgeshire.

Founder of the organisation Fiona Measham said the initiative’s expansion was “radical”, adding: “It’s really exciting that police are prioritising health and safety over criminal justice at festivals.”

She believes up to 10 festivals will be involved this year, including a number of independent events, and hopes front-house testing will become commonplace in nightclubs and city centres in the future.

Despite welcoming the news, Mr Bell added that he would still like to see better security at music festivals.

“This is a start but there are plenty of things that can be improved upon,” he said.

“I definitely think that more stringent controls are needed.

“Anything that saves a life is a good thing.”

Mr Benn said of the plans: “We talked about it during the summer of last year and the reality is that I took a decision that unless and until the NPCC supported the principle of it, it was difficult for us to move forward on it.”

He added: “It’s taken a long time and it won’t be at every festival, but where we think there is a need to do it we will be doing it.”