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: https://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: http://peopleanddancefloors.com/
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.
Follow Juan on Twitter
Follow Abolitionist Futures
There is a rich library of publications on the IDPC website you can browse https://idpc.net/publications
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
Follow the Union for the abolition of cannabis prohibition (VOC) on social media
Here’s a link to Derrick’s own High Tea Podcast: https://highteapotcast.nl/english-episodes/
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
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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:
Follow DrugReporter on social media:
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
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.