Scotland’s Sound


By Chester Cornford


2015 was another excellent year for Glasgow’s electronic music scene. Sub Club, Slam, Jasper James, Dixon Avenue Basement Jams and the Revenge all won DJ Mag’s Best of British awards. There were amazing parties and releases left, right and centre and upcoming stars such as Denis Sulta have been receiving far wider acclaim and recognition.

This makes it all the sadder that we entered 2016 on such a tragic note. The death of a clubber at GBX on NYE at the O2 Academy revealed once again the dangers of Glasgow and the wider UK’s attitude to drug use. For a city so far ahead of its size musically, it is mind-boggling to see ourselves so far behind in our mentality.

There is an undeniable relationship between drugs and electronic music. If we are to keep clubbers safe, the institutions and boards designed to protect us must catch up with the times. The UK takes a prohibitive stance on drug use, preferring to target the supply and demand for drugs. This involves pursuing dealers, closing off supply routes, and discouraging use through criminalisation of drugs and encouraging people to say no. This attitude is the driving mentality behind the global war on drugs – a war that we are clearly not winning. It has led to the prevalence of organised crime, the destruction of our natural environment, unsafe products and missed opportunities for tax revenue, regulation, and, most importantly, saving lives.

But still the UK takes punitive measures that do more harm than good. The House of Commons voted to ban poppers as part of their Psychoactive Substance Bill. Since 1993 there have been 20 deaths where poppers have been implicated, less than one death a year. Making poppers illegal will probably see this figure rise – as users become ignorant to its safe use and begin to purchase on the black market. Regulation could have eliminated those dangers.

That being said, most drug related deaths amongst clubbers do not come from ignorance about a drug’s effects or safe dosage; it comes from not knowing the strength of their drugs.

So what can we do? There are a few simple measures we can take for harm reduction. To do this, we need to stop punishing bars and clubs for drug use in their venues. Fearing repercussions, club owners and promoters distance themselves from drug use, and therefore cannot take measures to improve clubber safety. If we want to make our venues safer, we need to allow clubs to take steps that ensure clubbers’ safety. On site drug testing lets clubbers know exactly what is in their product. The Warehouse Project in Manchester uses the charity The Loop to do exactly that, and as a result can relay information about ecstasy tablets that contain dangerous doses of PMA. Clubs can provide space for clubbers to rest if they need a break. These are the areas that we are far behind in. Clubs in cities such as Berlin and Amsterdam pave the way, providing venues where clubbers are able to party in a place they know they are safe and can receive the help and information they need without the fear of being reprimanded. These measures save lives.

For Glasgow to truly be a great clubbing capital, we must make it one that is safe. It must also be forward thinking and innovative. After all, that is what put our electronic music talent on the map.

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