Drugs will always make their way into festivals says former St Helens Council leader ahead of Reminisce

Councillor Barrie Grunewald
Councillor Barrie Grunewald

Illegal drugs will “always” make their way into festivals regardless of tighter security measures, the former leader of St Helens Council has said.

On Wednesday, the organisational arrangements of the upcoming Reminisce Festival was discussed by St Helens Council’s environment, regeneration, housing, culture and leisure overview and scrutiny panel.

A council report outlines a number of safety measures introduced for this year’s event, which takes place at Sherdley Park on September 7.

In 2018, a dozen people suspected of taking ecstasy took ill while at the festival.

Addressing the panel, Rainhill councillor Barrie Grunewald described himself as an “avid festival-goer”, and said he attended Reminisce in 2017.

The former council leader said he was offered drugs “on a regular basis” while attending the festival.

Coun Grunewald said: “I was present before the new security measures were in place.

“But the truth is regardless of security, drugs will always get through, it is part of festivals.

“Maybe the new security will keep some out, but the truth is they will always get through regardless, especially with 19,000 approximately present.”

Coun Grunewald’s comments come following a series of deaths at festivals over the bank holiday weekend.

A 17-year-old girl from Oldham died of a suspected drugs overdose at Leeds Festival on Saturday.

Later that evening, a man died after falling ill at Reading Festival. His death is being treated as unexplained.

On Sunday, a 19-year-old man from Warrington died after falling ill at the popular dance festival, Creamfields, in Daresbury.

A post-mortem examination will take place in due course.

And on Wednesday, Cheshire Police revealed an 18-year-old man from Blackpool was critically ill after being rushed to hospital from Creamfields.

Creamfields’ organisers had previously issued a warning about “extra strong” ecstasy pills in circulation.

A similar warning was issued by Reminisce organisers, In Demand, last year.

The St Helens Council report says the organisers have invested “significantly” in management services for the event, which include the police, security teams, admission systems, ID and weapons checks and enhanced medical provisions.

Co-ordinated medical provision will be provided by a number of suppliers on-site, which the council says will assist with the control and identification of any medical patterns or emergencies.

A full-time North West Regional Ambulance Service officer will also be on-site to liaise with the hospitals should casualty admission be required.

Licensing manager Lorraine Simpson said: “The steps that they’ve put in place, there really isn’t much more that they can do to control these issues.

“I don’t know if any members have looked at their website, which I have to say is really good. It’s updated constantly.

“There’s a huge sign on it saying ‘drug free festival’. There’s not much more the organisers can do to promote that side of it.

“They do work extremely hard on it, as do, I have to say, the other agencies who are involved with them such as the policed, ambulance, fire, security services.

“It’s a huge operation, the Reminisce Festival.”

A spokesman for In Demand Events said Reminisce Festival value the safety and wellbeing of its customers “with the utmost priority”.

The event organiser added that it is “constantly striving” to improve its operation in “every way possible.”

An In Demand Events spokesman said: “Over the years we have worked hard in partnership with Merseyside Police, St Helens Council, St John Ambulance and responsible authorities to ensure that all safety measures possible are put into place during our event, which has grown in popularity year on year.

“We have a duty of care to every person on our site and we do everything possible to ensure that they feel safe and have access to excellent medical support throughout the event.

“The vast majority of our customers have a safe and enjoyable experience at Reminisce.

“We continually make improvements as we grow, under the guidance of the council, police and health services, and constantly strive to improve our operation in every way possible.”

For more information, visit reminiscefestival.com