It's fair to say the launch weekend of The Warehouse Project didn't go to plan.
What should have been hailed as the successful start to its biggest season to date was overshadowed by the tragic death of a 30-year-old man.
Adding to that, it was reported by a local paper that in total 16 people were admitted to hospital after ingesting drugs at WHP over the course of the weekend.
Of course, the national press banged its proverbial drum and the WHP organisers went public, promptly calling a press conference to discuss plans — the first of their kind in the UK — to roll out drug testing on 12th October at the venue in conjunction with Home Office charity, The Loop.
A Home Office spokesperson said: "The aim of this research is to monitor emerging threats and target activity to reduce demand and supply. It is not intended to be a service for drug users and the results will not be published immediately following the pilot. CAST’s role is limited to the analysis of samples seized by police or placed in surrender bins."
With a representative from the local ambulance services on the panel at the recent press conference alongside The WHP's Sacha Lord, the discussion brought to light not only the responsibility placed on probably the UK's most powerful booking force and its corresponding public services, but our club scene as a whole.
Deaths in Essex, Blackpool and Darlington this summer are just a few other incidences pointing toward an ongoing epidemic affecting the UK, where clubbers are taking pills marketed as ecstasy and falling ill or even dying.
With new, derivative ecstasy formulas cropping up all the time to side-step the law, the resulting playing field is a minefield.
Following the rise of legal highs like 'meow meow' — and the growing use of MDMA substitutes such as PMA, PMMA and 5-EAPB — standards have gone out the window and danger has increased, but, aside from stricter searches and sniffer dogs, club owners are powerless to prevent contaminated batches getting into clubs.
“Currently it's so varied, what's out there,” said WHP's Sacha Lord at the press conference. “A 14 year old can go on the internet and purchase something at the moment, so we are trying to establish what is going on in the market.”
The choice to introduce a testing trial at Victoria Warehouse — which would, it has been suggested, put seized drugs through a machine and send out messages via social networks — might go some way to prevent future deaths, and of course the findings will be useful from a research perspective, but with a zero tolerance drugs policy in place there's not much more authorities and club owners can do.
The Dutch approach — i.e DIY testing facilities in clubs, like those run by Energy Control at Sonar — cannot be implemented unless the British government — as implored by a Durham police chief recently — loosens its war on drugs.
“We can't legislate that, the government has to legislate [that sort of thing],” said Sacha. “Whether or not it's something we'd support is then up to debate as it is then in effect condoning the use of drugs, which obviously we don't.”
With Theresa May reportedly rejecting pleas from Sacha to allow clubbers to test drugs themselves in clubs, the onus is being put on education and individual responsibility.
Individual testing kits can be bought easily online and people are encouraged to think twice before dropping whatever they are fed by a dealer.
While WHP are installing more security, extra medical presence and giving out the odd free bottle of water, it's up to clubbers to also have their wits about them.
Words: Adam Saville