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Parklife boss Sacha Lord threatens legal action over government’s drug testing U-turn

'I have seen it save lives with my own eyes,' Sacha Lord tells Rolling Stone UK after the government banned on-site festival drug testing.

By Nick Reilly

Parklife Festival 2022 (Picture: Jody Hartley)

Parklife Festival boss Sacha Lord has threatened legal action against the government in a row over drug testing at festivals.

Lord, who is the Night Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester, says that organisers of the Heaton Park festival were told they weren’t allowed to test confiscated drugs just days before this year’s event took place last month.

Since 2014, Parklife has traditionally teamed up with drug testing charity The Loop to test confiscated substances on site, so that notifications can be put out if any are found to be dangerous.

Lord says the initiative has helped save lives, but the Home Office announced last month that on-site drugs testing at music festivals would require a Controlled Drugs Licence and that testing must instead take place at a named, permanent premise.

He’s now written to Home Secretary Suella Braverman to demand their return and says he’ll launch a judicial review if he doesn’t hear back by July 7.

Hitting out at Braverman, Lord told Rolling Stone UK: “She’s a dangerous person.”

He explained: “Drugs testing isn’t public facing. It’s back of house and I’ll be honest, I have seen it save lives with my own eyes. Because if you get a very poorly customer that sometimes is unconscious, you can ask their friends what they’ve taken and the scientists in our labs can search for what it sounds like within two minutes. You can tell the doctors what’s in there and it gives that person a fighting chance.”

Lord’s campaign has since received high profile support from the likes of Fatboy Slim and Billy Bragg, who have all highlighted the importance of drugs testing.

Responding to the claims, a Home Office spokesperson said: “Our position hasn’t changed for 50 years. Festivals aiming to test drugs off their site this summer must work with the police and a Home Office licensed drug testing provider. We continue to keep an open dialogue with any potential applicants.” 

It’s believed that The Loop has been able to test at events without a licence to date due to agreements with local police and councils.

“This campaign is elevating, but it never needed to if Suella Braverman hadn’t take a very 1980s just say no to drugs approach,” Lord explained. “It’s ridiculous.”

Despite the challenge posed to government, Lord remains optimistic that a common sense approach will eventually prevail.

Lord also pointed towards the example of Tory peer Lord Bethell, who recently changed his opinion and backed the need for drugs testing.

“People are turning and it does feel like in all of this, a common sense solution will prevail. I think people will see their way around to it.”

On a wider point, Lord also warned that a lack of testing could hamper the success of events in cities such as his native Manchester – where events such as Parklife and outdoor gigs from bands such as Arctic Monkeys have provided a huge boost to the city’s economy.

“We’re having a real moment in Manchester right now and it’s so exciting. I remember the reputation we had from the late eighties to the early nineties for being a party city and it feels like we’re heading this way again. The North West, for me, feels like where it’s happening right now.”