Drug checking service for festival goers gains charity status and appoints first CEO

A community interest company set up to test drugs at music festivals has been granted charity status by the regulator and appointed its first chief executive, health care executive Katy Porter.

The organisation was set up a decade ago as a community interest company by University of Liverpool’s chair of criminology Professor Fiona Measham.

The service operates at music festivals to test festival goers’ drugs, ensure substances are not dangerous and offer advice about drug related harm.

Porter joins having held senior health services roles, at Manor Gardens Welfare Trust, Thames Reach and Cranstoun Drug Services. She is also vice chair of youth homelessness charity Depaul UK.

Following a review of the Loop’s drug checking services the Charity Commission has granted the organisation charitable status.

“This provides the organisation with an excellent platform to develop services, reach wider communities and more individuals, and greater opportunity to secure further funding to do so,” said the charity.

It added: “The Loop will continue to expand its provision of drug checking and associated harm reduction services in nightlife at events and community hubs, across the country as well as training in drug awareness, harm reduction and managing issues in nigh-time economy venues.”

Analysis of drug checking at seven festivals found that if a substance was identified as ‘other than expected’, more than six in ten people disposed of further substances and more than a third said they would alert their friends to concerns.

Under its new charitable status Measham becomes chair of its board. Also sitting on its board is Darren Knight, the chief executive of HIV charity George House Trust, and Jon Drape, director of festival production company Engine No.4. The charity is to advertise for new trustees at a future date.

“It is an amazing time to join The Loop; all the continued energy and commitment of so many over the past 10 years has enabled us to get to this next stage in our development,” said Porter.

“The recognition and registration as a charity, will mean that our health services and the important information we generate through drug checking will now reach more people in more places across the UK, and greatly assist in reducing drug-related harm.

“I am excited by the opportunity to lead such an innovative and important organisation as The Loop'.

Measham added: “The Loop is very lucky to have the experience and skills of Katy to drive the next stage in our development, for what is now very much a full-time job. The Board is delighted to have appointed her."

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