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Lounge on the Farm festival leads way in banning legal highs from sale during event

By Kiran Kaur

Canterbury festival organisers are leading the field with an outright ban on legal highs.

Sean Baker, founder of the Lounge on the Farm festival, slapped a ban on selling the drugs three years ago.

Now more than 20 other festivals across the UK are this year enforcing the rule, in a bid to raise awareness of the health risks.

Lounge on the Farm crowds
Lounge on the Farm crowds

Lounge on the Farm stopped allowing traders to sell legal highs on site in 2007, before putting a stop to them completely in 2011.

Sean Baker said: “We did it a while ago when we saw there was a problem occurring.

“They’re dangerous. The statistics prove it with the amount of kids that end up in hospital because of them.

“I think it’s such a grey area and to risk the health of young people is just crazy.

"I think that we’re meant to be a society that protects people, not to give them dangers like that, so readily available.”

The substances, which are currently deemed to be on the right side of the law, produce similar effects to illegal drugs including cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy.

Lounge on the Farm is being 'rested' for a year
Lounge on the Farm is being 'rested' for a year

They were linked to 68 deaths in the UK in 2012, up from 10 three years earlier.

Mr Baker believes such substances aren't needed to have a good experience.

He said: “Our festival is about music. People go to listen to music and have a good time. It’s not necessarily like you have to take drugs to enjoy yourself, so it’s a little bit different.

"We’re more of a family festival and we probably don’t see some of the same extremes as some of the other bigger festivals have."

Lounge on the Farm will be held for the ninth time this August on Merton Farm.

Organisers of the festival have the necessary checks in place to monitor the issue and ensure festival-goers do not breach the rules.

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Mr Baker said: Having a great team, a great medical team and a great health and safety team helps a lot. It’s about taking care of people."

He added: "When you put an event on you’re in charge of that person. It’s your job to make sure that person’s safe and that’s our paramount point. We look after our customers.”

However, he believes it is unfair music festivals are often associated with the substances.

He said: “To say that people just do it at music festivals that’s wrong because we have our event once a year.

"I think if people are using legal highs, they don’t just wait to do it once a year.

Tribes on the main stage at Lounge on the Farm
Tribes on the main stage at Lounge on the Farm

"I think the problem is not a music festival, I think it’s a problem all the way throughout the year in bars and elsewhere."

The government launched a review into the substances last December, which could lead to sweeping changes to the UK’s drug laws.

It came as KentOnline launched a campaign for clearer packaging on the substances.

Mr Baker said: “If the government just made it illegal then it wouldn’t be a problem, would it?

"It’s more the government that needs to do something about it rather than the individual festivals.

"Banning them is a good way forward but the government needs to take a harder stand on it.”

The report's due to be published this summer.

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