Safeguarding and Raising Awareness of Spiking at Festivals 

Dawn Dines - Taking the anti-spiking message to festivals.

Dawn Dines has a mission: To stamp out spiking. We met at this year’s Boardmasters Festival, where the message from the charity she heads up, the aptly-named Stamp Out Spiking, was clearly communicated with the support of the organisers. Before she continued on this part of her crusade, we asked Dawn to outline the issue as well as the solutions that have been developed.

“Sadly most people in the UK know someone who’s had their drink spiked, or have themselves been spiked. In 2019 there were 1,903 reported incidents of spiking. In just under 3 years this has shockingly risen to nearly 5,000 cases, according to recent statistics provided by the NPCC (National Police Crime Commission). Thankfully, most cases of spiking don’t end tragically… but they can.

Whilst drink spiking remains the number one cause of spiking incidents in the UK, recent incidents at the Isle of Wight festival, and last year at Leeds festival show that spiking can also occur in offer forms, such as drink spiking and needle spiking.

Stamp Out Spiking has been campaigning on spiking awareness since 2004 and is nationally regarded the UK’s leading experts on spiking. Our Exeter-based charity is dedicated to raising awareness on spiking by providing festivals, venues, security staff and welfare organisation with accredited educational training courses.

This year as part of our Safer Festivals outreach programme, Stamp Out Spiking have been working together with festival organisers, helping to train staff in spiking awareness and supporting festival with their spiking safeguarding policies and practices.

Delivering our training courses to the teams at Rock Oyster and Boardmasters this year was fantastic. We’ve been trying to work with a lot more festival organisers and as we’re based in Devon working with the teams from Rock Oyster and Boardmasters was a perfect fit. We’re really keen to help train festival staff and support on-site welfare teams, as it all helps to raise awareness of this terrible crime, as well as keeping festival-goers safe.

Listening to all the young people at the festival talking about spiking and seeing our ‘Never Have I Ever’ awareness campaign visuals on the big screen at Boardmasters, whilst Liam Gallagher strutted on to the stage was just brilliant, it was one of the proudest moments of my career. We spent a lot of time at the Sanctuary tent supporting the welfare teams and the response we had from the crowd was great, we had hundreds of people coming up to us and telling us about spiking incidents they knew about, or friends/family members that had been spiked.

What can festival & venues do to prevent spiking?

First and foremost, festival organisers and licence holders should ensure that their staff are aware of all the issues around spiking. This includes information on how spiking can take place, what the most common symptoms of spiking are, and what steps should be taken if a spiking incident occurs. To help support this festival organiser and venues should have a detailed risk assessment on spiking, along with suitable policies and procedures for dealing with a spiking incident.

Training on spiking awareness is absolutely essential. As part of our Safer Festivals outreach campaign, Stamp Out Spiking provides a 20-minute online training course aimed at festival staff, as well as more thorough 2-hour training course for venue managers and other senior staff. Our training includes information regarding protective anti-drink spiking devices, such as StopTopps, NightCap and Spikeys. This is all intended to ensure that festival venues are well equipped to deter spiking on their premises, and to respond appropriately in the case of a spiking allegation, ensuring that the victim is treated professionally, and the allegation dealt with appropriately and efficiently.

In addition to spiking policies and staff training, festivals should also invest in educational resources, such as poster and signage specifically aimed at raising awareness of this issue. Stamp Out Spiking offers a number of different resources, including a public awareness video highlighting the dangers of spiking, potential symptoms, and the impact that it can have. These assets can then be shared and displayed at the festival in bars/stall, on TV screens, on the festival website and social media channels.

The following steps may help to safeguard on spiking:

  • Never leave your drink unattended, and keep an eye on your friend’s drink
  • Don’t accept a drink or a vape from someone you don’t know
  • Consider sticking to bottled drinks as these are harder to spike
  • If you think your drink’s been tampered with, don’t drink it
  • If you think you’ve been spiked, Inform festival/venue security or staff immediately
  • Stay with your friends or relatives if you think you may have been spiked.
  • Before going out, let someone know where you’re going and what time you expect to be back

Stamp Out Spiking

Stamp Out Spiking is a registered charity (no. 1203101) and was founded in 2014. The charity’s main goal is to campaign for the current UK law to be changed and make spiking a separate recognisable criminal offence and to make spiking awareness a licensing requirement. Stamp Out Spiking offers a wide array of training on spiking, as well as membership programme for organisations and venues. Our membership includes access to our expert spiking awareness and prevention materials including a spiking HR Toolkit, venue risk assessment, policies and immediate response processes, awareness posters and our quarterly newsletter. ”