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West Kowloon Cultural District

Mental health workers could reduce drug risk at Hong Kong music festivals, experts say

UK and Australian event safety managers give advice following death at Road to Ultra festival in Kowloon earlier this month

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 September, 2017, 10:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 September, 2017, 10:03am

Counsellors and psychiatrists should be deployed at Hong Kong music festivals to help identify drug dealers and give medical advice to revellers, according to two veteran overseas event safety managers.

Tim Roberts, from the UK, and Jon Corbishley, from Australia, shared their experience in Hong Kong after one person died and three others collapsed at the electronic music festival Road to Ultra in West Kowloon on September 16.

The two experts were in town for a seminar last week on event safety, organised by the Jockey Club’s Disaster Preparedness and Response Institute, which aims to raise the city’s disaster awareness.

Roberts said European music festivals also faced drug problems, especially with psychoactive substances like cannabis and ecstasy.

Police investigate after man dies at Road to Ultra electronic music festival in Hong Kong

“We can’t prevent drug use just like we can’t prevent terrorism,” said Roberts, who oversees safety at various events like the world-famous Glastonbury Festival. “Sometimes if you make stronger barriers, [party-goers] will do it in the car park or on the train.”

Apart from conventional measures like searching participants at the entrance and deploying sniffer dogs, he suggested stepping up patrols at toilets and having counsellors, medics and psychiatrists on site.

“Every event that I do, every single one, there’re people who are able to give counselling, and advice, as well medical, psychiatric advice. At the bigger festivals, we have psychiatrists,” Roberts said.

He said these experts could give advice to young people who were confused by the substances given to them by others at festivals and help identify drug dealers.

We can’t prevent drug use just like we can’t prevent terrorism
Tim Roberts, event safety manager

“If someone’s dealing drugs they keep going back to their tent ... or every five minutes they’re going to the bathroom again and they go with somebody else, so staff can identify the behaviours in dealing,” he said.

The duo also managed the safety of Ariana Grande and her performers during the recent Dangerous Woman World Tour, ensuring theatrical effects were safe and the maintaining the structural strength of the stage.

Explain this: What happened at Road to Ultra and what’s next for Hong Kong’s festival scene?

They both complimented organisers’ efforts to counter terrorism at the Hong Kong concert last Thursday.

Antiterrorism police were deployed amid heightened security at the venue at AsiaWorld-Expo, as it came four months after a suicide bomber attacked the 24-year-old pop star’s concert in Manchester, UK, leaving 23 dead and 250 injured.

Corbishley stressed the importance of disseminating safety information, including on social media, as early as possible so that participants can take timely action. Roberts agreed and said it was a right move for the organisers to inform concert goers far in advance that only A4-sized transparent plastic bags were permitted at the venue.