Organisers of Reading & Leeds festival have announced that they have increased security to “weed out” drug dealers operating at the site.
The new measures have been introduced following the death of a teenager at the festival last year, an inquest has heard.
16-year-old David Celino fell ill after taking ecstasy at the 2022 edition of the festival at Leeds, which his group of friends purchased from a dealer in the Camping Plus area of the site. He was later taken to a hospital, where he died on August 28.
In an inquest into his son’s death, Celino’s father, Gianpiero, shared his concerns that the festival was not safe for under-18s, and pushed for a bar on 16 and 17-year-olds from attending the live music event.
Now Melvin Benn, the managing director of Festival Republic, has told Celino’s parents of the “genuine sorrow” he felt after their son’s death. Speaking at the Wakefield Coroner’s Court, he also revealed he had lost a nephew to drugs and explained that Celino’s death had “taken an emotional toll on myself and all of my staff, no question about that” (via Metro).
He also confirmed that, while he does not think that under-18s should be banned, the festival will be introducing more security measures in this year’s instalment. Particularly to protect teenagers from “predatory” drug dealers, who might take advantage of their “naivety”.
These new measures include more security officials and support hubs on-site, and search dogs present at every entrance for 2023. Benn also told the court that organisers will be monitoring how many under-18s are attending the festival.
“[The festival] will operate a drugs operation aimed at weeding out dealers and having them removed from site, that’s a very significant change,” he said (via BBC News). “the intention is that no camper will be more than 200m from [a support hub],” he added.
Discussing the recent changes to the festival – which will be held from August 25 to 27 – Councillor James Gibson, chair of Leeds City Council’s licensing committee, said that although he thinks it is “very unlikely” that the council could ban unaccompanied under-18s, he is “impressed” by the efforts to heighten security and crack down on drug dealers.
Last month, Reading and Leeds festival confirmed that The 1975 will be the final headliners for this year’s event, following the withdrawal of Lewis Capaldi.
Other headliners for this year’s festival include Foals, Billie Eilish, The Killers, Sam Fender and Imagine Dragons. Other acts on the line-up include Wet Leg, Bicep, Becky Hill, Steve Lacy, Central Cee, MUNA, The Snuts, Tion Wayne and more.