Glastonbury's new image
Much has been written about the evolution of the Glastonbury festival. Where the entrance ticket once cost a £1 and you were given a free pint of milk from the farm when you entered, to today’s sprawling tent-city home to some 250,000 temporary residents. Indeed, the festival is almost unrecognisable from what it was 40 years ago and as the site, music, price and culture of the event has changed, so has the drugs culture of the site.
The infamous drug-dealing gangs of the 1980’s who ventured down from Manchester and Liverpool, terrorising dealers and party-goers alike seem to have become a thing from the past. While the festival has become undoubtedly more middle-aged and middle class, so has the drug-scene at the festival. The security and organisation of the festival, a far cry from the free-for-all hedonistic Mecca that gave the festival its reputation in its earlier days has meant that it is far more difficult for the drug-dealing groups to get into the site. The astronomical price of a festival ticket and the exhaustive process of trying to register for a ticket have meant that many dealers simply wouldn’t bother with such bureaucratic processes.
The police presence around the site, although at times was noticeable, it was still relatively small and I personally didn’t see a single occasion of the police interacting with the crowds inside the festival, no searches, no arrests, no fights. The only actual police action i have heard about was the seizure of 100,000 pills in a car on the motorway driving towards the Glastonbury site. The usual measures were taken by police in limiting the supply to the festival. Sniffer dogs at train stations, random bag search as people entered the site and so on. However, as the festival organisers are keenly aware, drugs are a vital element in maintaining the atmosphere and vibrancy of many of the areas of the Glastonbury site. Finding the right equilibrium is key. Furthermore they are under no illusion that for many people the festival is a rare opportunity to take drugs in an environment that generally is accepting of drug culture. Whether they are university students, ageing hippies, young professionals and so on, all types of people engage in drug use while there and despite the strengthening of security across the site, if you know what you want, you can almost certainly get it.
There were reports of dodgy ecstasy pills being sold and organisers of certain areas of the site were making this aware to the festival goers, but on the whole, it seems there were little problems concerning the drugs on site. The total number of drug arrests were down on previous years and apart from one or two reports, the general quality of drugs on the site was relatively safe.