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People and Dancefloors

People and Dancefloors

By Sambiki Saru
People and Dancefloors is a participatory research project looking at narratives of ordinary people, illicit drug use and dance culture in the UK.

The first output of the project is a 25-min documentary film which will be released publicly in winter 2020. In the meantime, you can watch the People and Dancefloors trailer here: youtu.be/FQhe_gVvIzY

For more info on our project, to participate in the research or find out about upcoming events, please check out the People and Dancefloors website: peopleanddancefloors.com/
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In Conversation with Michael Kill

People and Dancefloors

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People and Dancefloors: In conversation with Juan Fernandez Ochoa
People and Dancefloors Podcast Season 2 Episode 5 In conversation with Juan Fernandez Ochoa Juan is an inspiring human being. He is currently Campaigns and Communications Officer at IDPC(International Drug Policy Consortium). He leads on the development of the Support. Don't Punish campaign. He also worked as Policy Officer at the Beckley Foundation. He was also involved at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch) and DrugScience (formerly known as ISCD). He holds a double Masters degree in European Studies from the London School of Economics and Sciences Po. In the podcast, we talk about Juan’s trajectory into the drug policy reform space. Juan’s experiences of being born in Venezuela, going via Spain and later France and the UK as a student have contributed to a critical understanding of drug policy as a global problem and as a problem of (in)justice. Juan is a fountain of knowledge and hope about the many drug policy reform and advocacy initiatives being pioneered in the global south, including Echele Cabeza, Renfa, and SANPUD, just to name a few. We discuss the legacy of colonialism and imperialism in both constructing the framework of international drug control and continuing to give primacy to research and modes of reform originating in the global north. Juan notes a main concern is issue compartmentalisation in drug policy reform; these “issue silos” essentially prevent our ability to understand problems of injustice as connected to systems of oppression, while enabling hierarchical orderings of drugs and their users. This leads nicely onto Abolitionist Futures, which Juan has been involved with. Juan is so good at clarifying the many misconceptions that exist around the idea of abolition, and what prevents meaningful discussions about abolitionism in the UK. We are all invited to join the Abolitionist Futures reading group to learn more. It was so heart-warming to engage with a true utopian vision as Juan’s, whose thoughtful reminder that all our positions are ideological (even the position of those who have naturalised the police, prisons, and commercial interest and profit over and above people’s health and wellbeing) reignited my own revolutionary fantasies. LINK Follow Juan on Twitter @jfernandezochoa Follow Abolitionist Futures @ReclaimJustice Follow IDPC @IDPCnet There is a rich library of publications on the IDPC website you can browse https://idpc.net/publications
01:01:10
April 04, 2022
People and dancefloors podcast Season 2 episode 4 Cannabis special! In conversation with Andrew Bonello and Derrick Bergman
Andrew Bonello is the president of Releaf Malta, a community-based NGO that campaigns for the regulation of cannabis in Malta through safe, sensible and inclusive policies. Andrew is a former national football player, and the father of two children. He wants to end stigma and injustices against people who consume and cultivate cannabis. Derrick Bergman is a Dutch journalist, photographer, and activist who has been covering cannabis culture since 1994. He is a founder and the current chairman of the VOC (Union for the abolition of cannabis prohibition). Since 2010, he's served as the coordinator of Cannabis Liberation Day, the biggest cannabis and hemp event in the Netherlands. He is a father of three and has been growing his own cannabis for more than two decades. There seems to be a green rush across Europe. In the podcast, we address perspectives from Malta as the new kid on the bloc and the Netherlands as the pioneer, thinking about what the Netherlands got wrong that Malta can get right, learning from the experiences of other countries. We all agree we certainly want to avoid the backdoor problem, which is notoriously linked with expanding opportunities for organised crime. We also talk about whether cannabis reform can shape social perceptions of people who use drugs, once again thinking about the Dutch experience. We discuss what justice and social equity mean in the context of cannabis reform, and how the Maltese model addresses these issues. Follow Andrew on social media @Andrew_Bonello @Releafmalta Follow the Union for the abolition of cannabis prohibition (VOC) on social media @vocnederland Here’s a link to Derrick’s own High Tea Podcast: https://highteapotcast.nl/english-episodes/
49:20
March 15, 2022
People and dancefloors season 2 episode 3 with Nick Hickmott
People and Dancefloors podcast Season 2, Episode 3 In conversation with Nick Hickmott Nick is the early intervention lead at We Are With You in Kent. He works with young people in schools to promote harm reduction, with a dialogic approach aimed to empower young people to make more informed choices and develop a better understanding of the consequences of the choices they make. On the podcast, Nick shares his journey from drug experiences in his youth to working in a secure psychiatric unit for young people, all the way to integrating his interests and experiences around drug use, harm reduction and mental health among young people his current role as early intervention lead. We discuss the pitfalls of having grown up with prohibitionist drug education and the ‘just say no’ mantra (the this is your brain on drugs style of “education”), particularly in terms of breeding distrust in authority figures (because the experiences often contradict the message) and dismissing young people’s experiential knowledge. We agree that young people’s experiences should be the starting point of conversations about drugs, and as a society, we should aim to provide safe spaces to build young people’s trust in us, especially in what should be the mother of all safe spaces, schools. Harm reduction, education, pleasure, exclusion, and alcohol figure quite prominently throughout our discussion. Nick has some inspired ideas for the future: what if we had an experienced harm reduction worker in every school? Wish this did not sound so radical. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickHickmott Follow we are with you: @WithYouInKent
56:37
March 07, 2022
People and Dancefloors Season 2 episode 2: In conversation with Peter Sarosi
Peteris the director of the Rights Reporter Foundation and editor of Drugreporter. He has been in the drug policy and harm reduction space for many years. His work is truly international and ground-breaking, using film as a tool for activism along with contributing to the drug policy debate in many European and international fora. He is the film maker of harm reduction and drug policy reform par excellence, with a catalogue spanning two decades documenting the movement. In the podcast, we discuss Peter’s trajectory from young activist to veteran of the movement, reflecting on the positive changes that have happened at the international governmental level, in large part shaped by civil society advocacy. We also discuss the populist backlash in Europe, which has contributed to a significant disinvestment from harm reduction in many member states. Still, there are reasons to be optimistic, as European advocates continue to work together towards meaningful change. Peter tells us about the exciting programmes offered by the Rights Reporter Foundation, including media training for activists and advocates who want to make a difference in the human rights and drug policy reform spaces. We agree that despite its limitations, film remains a powerful tool for reframing the narrative about drugs. More information about Peter’s work can be found at: https://rightsreporter.net/ https://drogriporter.hu/en/ Follow DrugReporter on social media: @RRFdrugreporter
38:52
February 16, 2022
People and dancefloors podcast Season 2, episode 1: In conversation with Dr Fabian Steinmetz
We are back for season 2 after a long hiatus! Karen and I are joined by Dr. Fabian Pitter Steinmetz, who is both a toxicologist and an advocate for harm reduction and evidence-based drug policy. So cool! Fabian is also the president elect of the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD), a member of Schildower Kreis, a German expert panel for drug policy reform, and a member Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) Germany. He has been involved in important advisory work including giving evidence to the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, where he recommended not classifying Kratom. In the podcast, we talk all sorts as we all like to go off on tangents. Drug policy reform and harm reduction are the usual suspects, but we also discuss the need for more reform advocates to have a natural science background (we are a heavily social science crowd, and sadly social science does not have the same clout). It’s good to hear about how much Fabian has learnt from social scientists though! Makes me proud. We also talk about the need to have people who use drugs as role models (a stoner kid who is into skating can become a scientist after all!) We discuss the work of debunking myths about certain heavily stigmatised substances, our use of language in relation to all things drug-related (we could not stop using loaded terms like “hard” drugs or “hard” science and then we tried to correct ourselves – these expressions are so ingrained!) I think we even talked about basic income?! But then we all agree we do not have the expertise to really do it justice… Find out what Fabian thinks about the present and future of drug policy reform by listening to the podcast. Below is a link to the academic article detailing the cocaine e-cigarette model that Fabian talks about in the podcast. This work is so important considering that we struggle to come up with substitution treatment measures for stimulants. The cocaine-e-cigarette – A theoretical concept of a harm reduction device for current users of smokable cocaine forms Some media coverage of the article can be found here Follow Fabian on Twitter @docsteinmetz
01:00:09
February 09, 2022
The Long Podcast: Voices from the Electronic Dance Music Scene in Malta (Part 2)
To celebrate the launch of the People and Dancefloors Malta project, we have invited prominent voices from the Maltese electronic dance music scene to participate in a panel about the state of clubbing and electronic music in Malta.  Tina, Edwin, Neil and Mark, along with the People and Dancefloors Malta team, discussed music-making and art, clubbing, nightlife and substance use within the scene.  The music, the people, the dance floor are the three ingredients that create a unique atmosphere. Highlighting the benefits of this unique social activity, the panel underlined the sad reality for a lot of Maltese people of having to live in the shadows due to stigma and widespread negative perceptions linked to recreational substance use and dancefloors, resulting in misunderstandings and a general sense of mistrust between the authorities and electronic music event organisers.  Whilst recognising that the situation has improved, there are still numerous structural hurdles that continue to foster a culture of discrimination. Education and community are key to promoting a safe space for all, but the lack of appropriate regulation of club venues continues to be an obstacle to creating safer spaces.    The media was seen as the main culprit for sustaining an ‘us’ – the mainstream ‘good society’ enjoying licit substances and activities, versus ‘them’  – electronic music enthusiasts and recreational illicit substance users - mentality.  Panellists underlined the urgent need to demystify reasons why people choose to listen to electronic music and use substances by creating more open dialogue. Speaking of both the benefits and potential harms associated with any substance use, panelists highlighted the importance of education and the introduction of simple harm reduction measures as key to promoting safety.   They also hoped authorities would be less stringent towards licensing of electronic music events beyond the constricts of a club environment, thus exploring new outdoor venues and opportunities. Funding too seems to be a serious stumbling block for local artists, still relegated to an underclass category and not fully recognised as artists and professionals.   Calling on local electronic music artists to break the shackles of stigma and continue to embark on their musical journey, panellists hope the local electronic music scene is recognised as a valuable cultural asset, enriching the cultural and artistic heritage of the Maltese islands.  
39:53
October 26, 2021
The Long Podcast: Voices from the Electronic Dance Music Scene in Malta (Part 1)
To celebrate the launch of the People and Dancefloors Malta project, we have invited prominent voices from the Maltese electronic dance music scene to participate in a panel about the state of clubbing and electronic music in Malta. Tina, Edwin, Neil and Mark, along with the People and Dancefloors Malta team, discussed music-making and art, clubbing, nightlife and substance use within the scene. The music, the people, the dance floor are the three ingredients that create a unique atmosphere. Highlighting the benefits of this unique social activity, the panel underlined the sad reality for a lot of Maltese people of having to live in the shadows due to stigma and widespread negative perceptions linked to recreational substance use and dancefloors, resulting in misunderstandings and a general sense of mistrust between the authorities and electronic music event organisers. Whilst recognising that the situation has improved, there are still numerous structural hurdles that continue to foster a culture of discrimination. Education and community are key to promoting a safe space for all, but the lack of appropriate regulation of club venues continues to be an obstacle to creating safer spaces. The media was seen as the main culprit for sustaining an ‘us’ – the mainstream ‘good society’ enjoying licit substances and activities, versus ‘them’  – electronic music enthusiasts and recreational illicit substance users - mentality. Panellists underlined the urgent need to demystify reasons why people choose to listen to electronic music and use substances by creating more open dialogue. Speaking of both the benefits and potential harms associated with any substance use, panelists highlighted the importance of education and the introduction of simple harm reduction measures as key to promoting safety. They also hoped authorities would be less stringent towards licensing of electronic music events beyond the constricts of a club environment, thus exploring new outdoor venues and opportunities. Funding too seems to be a serious stumbling block for local artists, still relegated to an underclass category and not fully recognised as artists and professionals. Calling on local electronic music artists to break the shackles of stigma and continue to embark on their musical journey, panellists hope the local electronic music scene is recognised as a valuable cultural asset, enriching the cultural and artistic heritage of the Maltese islands.
45:31
October 26, 2021
In conversation with Hadi Ahmadzadeh, founder of Ecodisco
In this episode (16!), Giulia is in conversation with Hadi Ahmadzadeh, the founder of Ecodisco, which is a consultancy initiative that aims to change the fabric of urban nightlife by embedding sustainability practices, specifically removing single use plastic cups.    As Hadi tells me in the podcast, one of the great things about Ecodisco is that it started as a concept party (who says that dancers and party-makers cannot be political?) and in the short space of two years, became an ambitious project with the aim to remove single-use plastics from nightclubs in the UK.    Hadi talks about the project from inception to what it is now, touching upon important subjects such as the relationship between sustainability and design and what sustainability means to him. He points to a contradiction that I think many of us have experienced: between the positivity, pleasure and fun of nightlife, and the consequences of consumption and waste left in its wake.    Of course, we also talk about drugs, the changing role of drugs in the nightlife context, harm reduction and visions of the future (my favourite podcast subjects!) I got the sense that, like me, Hadi thinks that harm reduction goes much beyond drugs and can encompass sustainability, consent, physical and mental health as the issues we need to put at the forefront of our minds and conversations when we can leave our houses again.    For more information about Ecodisco, visit their website https://www.ecodisco.uk/ And follow Ecodisco on social media: Instagram: ecodisco_  Twitter: @ECODISCO1
34:14
July 09, 2021
Episode 15 – In conversation with Harold Heath
After a small hiatus we are back with another episode of the People and Dancefloors podcast! Delighted to be joined by Harold Heath, a DJ with a career spanning the full history of electronic dance music, whose book I devoured over a staycation. The book is called ‘Long Relationships: my incredible journey from unknown DJ to small time DJ’, a collection of heart-warming anecdotes full of discreet wisdom – highly recommended! On the podcast, we chat about the title of the book, long relationships, as the perfect framing to encapsulate many relationships: to DJing, to music itself, to friends and connections made along the way, to drugs both internally produced and externally consumed, and to the electronic dance music industry. We discuss what pulls people in and keeps people coming back to the dance floor. We agree that it is about community and belonging, but Harold adds another layer when discussing how the silly, hedonistic music and clubbing pursuits in his youth brought him an education in hindsight, in black and gay histories, in group struggles and cohesion reshaping British culture. We touch upon the lack of cultural recognition awarded to clubs compared to the operas and ballets, discussing whether this is impacted upon by the expectation that clubs must belong to youth culture alone, and not be part of “grown up culture”. Finally, we talk about drugs (of course), and how it is such a difficult terrain to navigate at the level of both individual experience and policy – though Harold agrees that harm reduction is the way forward 😊 Follow Harold on social media at @HaroldHeathDJ Get a copy of his book here https://velocitypress.uk/product/long-relationships-book/ Visit his website https://haroldheath.contently.com/
39:20
June 08, 2021
In Conversation with Michael Kill
In Episode 14, Giulia is in conversation with Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association. The NTIA is a Trade Association and Membership Organisation that promotes the contribution of the Night Time Industry in the UK and internationally, highlighting the cultural, economic, and community contribution of night time businesses. We talk about how the love of music and community drives people’s involvement in the night time economy as a career, which too often is not recognised as legitimate. We note the political unwillingness of accepting electronic dance music’s rich cultural contribution to the UK as a bottom-up growth that gives space to marginalised voices and communities, and the disconnect that exists with older generations of political stakeholders who have the most decision-making power. We also discuss the role of drugs in the night time economy and the difficult situation that clubs and other venues are placed in when enforcing drug laws. The night time economy is a risk environment that presents significant challenges, including managing consumption of alcohol and other drugs. Michael’s remark here is poignant: there are unreasonable expectations placed on night time venues to keep drugs out when we cannot even keep drugs out of secure environments like prisons. We both see harm reduction as a key principle that should inform strategies to manage the night time economy. We conclude by talking about visions for the future, agreeing that despite its tragic nature, the pandemic has presented us with an unprecedented opportunity to take stock and think about the changes we can make going forward. Watch/listen to our chat here: Follow the NTIA on Twitter @wearethentia and Michael on Linkedin
38:58
May 03, 2021
S01 E13 - Podcast with Earl Grey, producer and DJ
In Episode 13, Giulia is in conversation with someone close to her heart – Manchester producer and DJ Earl Grey Giulia and Jim bonded over a shared love of music at Boomtown festival in 2016. When I first met him, I was expecting for him to bring up jungle and amen breaks, but he went on and on about Matthew Herbert
34:18
April 06, 2021
S01 E12- In conversation with Rebecca Askew and Melissa Bone
In episode 12, Giulia is in conversation with Dr Melissa Bone and Dr Rebecca Askew, who make up the dream research team behind the Drug Policy Voices project. Melissa is Associate Professor in the University of Leicester Law School. She is interested in the intersection between drug policy, law and human rights and wrote an excellent book on the subject, titled Human Rights and Drug Control: A New Perspective. Rebecca is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is interested in drug policy, the perspectives of people who use drugs, and has written extensively about the many different functions of drug use. In the podcast, we talk about the intersections between the personal and the political in research journeys into drug policy. We tackle utopian visions of the drug policy process, and the aims and ethos of the Drug Policy Voices project. We all agreed that drug policy debates should make room for value-based positions and questions (Preach!!!) Participation, education, integration (2 better than Tony Blair :p) The Drug Policy Voices project is already outlining the diversity and complexity of people’s experiences, views, and positions around drug policy. The project’s approach and methods are innovative and inclusive. To find out more about the project, including how to get involved, visit the website at: https://www.drugpolicyvoices.co.uk/.  Follow Melissa, Rebecca and Drug Policy Voices on Twitter for updates: @melissa_bone @drskew @DrugPolicyVoic1 Or Instagram: @drugpolicyvoices Or both!
42:58
March 29, 2021
S01 E11 - In conversation with Stuart Taylor
Stuart Taylor is a senior lecturer in Criminal Justice at Liverpool John Moores University. He has written extensively on the representation of drugs and drug users within the media. In this podcast Anthony Killick talks to Stuart about the relationship between media representation and the formation of drugs policy in the UK. They discuss the ways in which drug use and intoxication are framed by class, neoliberal ideologies, and particular consumption practices.
43:02
March 22, 2021
S01 E10 - Research group discussion
In episode 10 of the podcast, you get to hear from the People and Dancefloors team! Giulia, Eve, Anthony and Lee talk about the impetus beyond the project: to provide a platform for people’s subjective experiences in relation to drugs and dancefloors and the drug policy debate more broadly. We also discuss the importance of turning the lens upon ourselves as researchers, activists, and drug users, which we address in our most recent article. Hear our musings about identity, class, privilege, and how these plays out in relation to drugs and status.
33:11
March 09, 2021
S01 E09 - In conversation with Verity Smith
In this episode, we invited Verity Smith, a PhD researcher at Durham University, to share insights from her ethnographic study of drug policing at music festivals. In the podcast, she reflects on the challenges of multiagency work in festival environments, focusing particularly on some of the tensions between enforcement policing and harm reduction and risk minimisation objectives. Verity takes us on a journey from policing, private security, and sniffer dogs at the festival gate, all the way to festival utopias.  Can we change the culture of festivals towards harm reduction embedded in festival environment design? Total ear candy! Follow Verity on Twitter at @veritymasmith
46:11
March 01, 2021
S01 E08 - In conversation with Alex Aldridge
In our latest episode, we invited Alex Aldridge to talk about the relationship between sex and drugs. Alex is a researcher currently doing a PhD on the relationship between sex and drugs, particularly focusing on the issue of consent. She uses ethnographic methods to tease out the complexities of people’s sex on drugs experiences. In the podcast, we talk about some of the problems with the chemsex label, binary understandings of consent, the intersection of sex, drugs and dancefloors as encompassing events, embodiment and sex on drugs experiences, and more! Check out her work and follow her on Twitter at @AlexAldridge_
49:03
February 08, 2021
S01 E07 - In conversation with Marta Santuccio
In episode 7, Giulia is in conversation with someone close to her heart. Marta Santuccio is an embodied practitioner focusing on breathwork while studying for a PhD in philosophy. Giulia and Marta first experienced raving together many years ago. Here, they talk about how drug experiences have informed Marta’s personal and professional journey. To find out more about Marta’s work, visit her Instagram (fleshandskin) or her website.
45:35
February 01, 2021
S01 E06 - In conversation with Mat Southwell
In the sixth episode of our podcast series, Anthony and Giulia speak to Mat Southwell, a global advocate on drugs and HIV, technical support consultant and drug user activist. Mat was one of the co-founders of the the European Network of People who use Drugs. Mat was also one of the first people to introduce party harm reduction education through his work with MixMag in the 1990s. Here we discuss this early work, as well as media representations of drug use, the Dance-Drugs Alliance, and the importance of harm reduction as a strategy for drugs policy in the UK.
49:52
January 18, 2021
S01 E05 - In conversation with Bristol Drugs Project's Sorcha Ryan
In this latest podcast, we invited Sorcha Ryan, club and festival harm reduction lead at the Bristol Drugs Project, to talk about what inspired her pioneering harm reduction work, the wicked problems in drug policy practices and debates, and the opportunity for reflection and taking stock offered by this pandemic. We both agreed that more honest and open conversations among stakeholders that include drug users’ voices are one way forward…
43:00
January 06, 2021
S01 E04 - In conversation with Students for Sensible Drug Policy UK’s Hannah Head
In this episode, Giulia is in conversation with Hannah Head (@_HannaHead_), a PhD student, an activist, and a member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) UK (@ssdpuk). We talk about the values of harm reduction, the role of drugs in young people’s lives, her work with SSDP and the need for universities to drop the ‘just say no’ rhetoric and develop more realistic, responsible and active harm reduction approaches to drug use by students to prevent drug related deaths.
44:33
October 19, 2020
S01 E03 - BBC's Ecstasy: The battle of rave
In this episode Anthony Killick and Becky Brookfield review a new BBC podcast series, Ecstasy: The battle of rave. While the series does well to interview people who were actually involved in ecstasy and rave culture throughout the ‘birth’ of acid house, it’s overarching ‘rise and fall’ narrative is typical of media that discusses drug use, and occludes a more interesting and urgent conversation about the relationship between subcultures and criminality. In particular, the series fails to make any new contribution on issues around class, drugs policy, and the closing down of raving spaces – questions which are just as relevant today as they were in the early 90s.
29:37
September 28, 2020
S01 E02 - A lockdown summer: What's Covid done to our festivals?
In episode two we focus on music festivals, the space they create for recreational drug use and the potential blueprint they offer for harm reduction.  This time Eve is in the hot seat explaining why festivals are the focus of her research and tells us more about her newest project: Festivals in Lockdown.  To participate in Eve's research on festivals in lockdown, you can answer a few questions here! 
25:02
September 21, 2020
S01 E01 - Corona-raves: What are they raging about?
In this podcast, we discuss a first experience of a rave during the pandemic. Albeit subjective and partial, a first-person account is a good launchpad for a broader discussion where we address media portrayals and associated stereotypes about raves, along with the tendency to blame young people’s recklessness and lack of responsibility for social, and in this case public health, ills. Finally, we question the categorisation of raves as “criminal” and as a “vector of disease”.
38:25
September 12, 2020