The Highlands’ premier music festival, Rockness, is just a week away and multi-agency partners are urging revellers to stay safe and enjoy their weekend.
Representatives from Northern Constabulary, NHS Highland, Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service, British Red Cross, Scottish Ambulance Service and Highland Alcohol and Drugs Partnership gathered at the Loch Ness site today to encourage attendees to make the most of their weekend, whilst balancing that with a responsible attitude towards personal safety.
The last three years have seen reductions in crime and medical incidents over the duration of the weekend, but partners say there is no room for complacency.
The multi-agency group is urging those attending to improve their health and safety by preparing for the event; taking small measures such as ensuring they have all medication they require, taking a water carrier, sun lotion and contraceptives, as well as not taking any unnecessary risks whilst at the festival.
David Haas from the Highland Council welcomed the 7th RockNess festival back to the area, saying: "We are indeed fortunate that Rockness has returned for a seventh year. It is now one of the main festivals in the UK music calendar and attracts thousands of people to the Highlands and Inverness area in particular.
“Multi-agency partners have been working almost since last year’s event concluded on the planning for the 2012 event, in a bid to ensure that people have a safe and enjoyable festival.”
Iain MacKay, Resilience Advisor for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: "We saw a reduction in the number of people who required to be taken to hospital at the 2011 event and we hope to see that trend continue this year.
“Simple things such as making your friends aware of medication that you are taking, making sure you have enough to last the weekend, taking enough sunscreen to last the weekend, and keeping hydrated, whether it is sunny or not, will help you stay healthy at RockNess 2012.
“As usual we can never predict what the Scottish weather will throw at us, but given that conditions have been less than summery of late we would encourage people to bring plenty of warm and waterproof clothing in the event of rain or cold.”
Nigel Stafford from the British Red Cross (Northern Scotland Area) said: "If we experience the good weather of previous years festival goers should remember that they are outside the majority of the time, so by keeping an empty water bottle, refilling at the well marked taps on site and using sun cream can really make the difference to an individuals welfare at the event. At the end of the day all partners want those attending to come and have a safe, enjoyable time.
“At the same time we may experience inclement weather and if this turns out to be the case people are advised to come prepared for all eventualities.”
Karen Carson, NHS Highland Senior Health Promotion Specialist for Sexual Health and Young People, said: "It is crucial that festival goers take sexual health seriously at RockNess. If you are simply on the pull or determined not to get tied down - don't forget to take condoms or dams with you. The message is really simple; if you’re planning a Highland fling at Rockness keep it covered – keep it safe.”
Condoms and dams are widely available from GP practices, sexual health clinics, Brook and Waverley Care free of charge – they can also be purchased in supermarkets and pharmacies. Festival goers should ensure that condoms are part of their essential festival ‘kit’. Anyone with concerns about their sexual health should Speak to Welfare during the event – they will have information available and be able to signpost you to services.
Karen added: "Make sure the only positive you take home from Rockness is the memory of a blinding weekend and not the result of an STI or pregnancy test.
Deborah Stewart, who is Coordinator for the Highland Alcohol and Drugs Partnership, said festival goers should remember to drink plenty of water, to eat well and to avoid taking unnecessary risks when it comes to alcohol and drugs.
She said: "We want people attending RockNess to enjoy themselves but we also want to help them do so safely. It's easy to get carried away by the atmosphere. However, if you overindulge in alcohol you could end up in the field hospital and miss the event altogether, which is not only disappointing but costly.
"It's important to eat before you start drinking and while you're drinking and to pace yourself by drinking soft drink spacers, particularly water, to keep you hydrated.
"Stay with friends and make sure you keep yourselves safe. It's also important to keep warm as you don't notice how cold you get when you've been drinking."
Deborah also urged festival goers not to dabble in illicit drugs and she pointed out that overindulging could prove fatal.
She said: "If you can't say no, you should at least let a close and reliable friend know what you've taken so that, if you need medical help, we have a clear picture of what's going on. And, bear in mind that you have no idea what you're buying or exposing yourself to when you decide to take drugs. Some drugs can be mixed with a variety of cheap hazardous substances which could cause your body untold harm.
"If you or your friends have taken something and start to feel unwell please seek medical help immediately."
Event Commander Superintendent Stevie MacKay from Northern Constabulary spoke of the proactive operation against drugs at the event: "As with previous years we will be taking a robust and pro-active stance against drugs at the festival.
“We will also be looking to stem the supply of drugs prior to the event also to ensure festival goers are as safe as possible. The message is clear from previous years in that if you bring drugs you're very likely to get caught and not only will you miss the whole weekend you'll face criminal charges, so don't risk it."
He added: “Alcohol should also be taken responsibly. There’s no point saving for months for this event and ruining it all by getting so drunk you miss the event or face ejection because alcohol has impaired your judgement and you engage in behaviour which is likely to land you in trouble.”
Area Manager for HIFRS, Scott Hay spoke of the risks of fire safety at the event: "At music festivals there is a risk of fire and it spreading due to tents being pitched close together and a number of people smoking in close proximity. I would encourage people who smoke inside or close to tents to take care and make sure cigarettes are fully extinguished before getting rid of them.
"If cooking, ensure you do so in the designated barbeque areas or alternatively take advantage of the many varied food concessions at the event and reduce that risk from fire. Remember it is important not to operate a barbeque or camping stove whilst under the influence of alcohol.”
Event Commander Superintendent Stevie MacKay added: "As with previous years we are looking forward to RockNess 2012, which in particular has enjoyed a relatively low level of crime and serious incident. However we are not complacent and a considerable amount of planning has gone into this year's event to ensure that not only RockNess is sufficiently policed, but that the rest of the Force area is unaffected."
He continued: "There is some general security advice which we suggest for those attending particularly those who will be there for the first time. We would ask that you keep valuables on your person at all times and avoid leaving them unattended in cars or tents. Whilst we have previously had relatively low levels of crime at the event these measures limit the opportunity for this type of opportunist crime to take place.”
Relevant Police messages will be available on the Northern Constabulary Twitter and Facebook pages over the course of the weekend.