The power of the Dutch Dance community

“We want anyone who comes to Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) to come across the message of Celebrate Safe“. That’s what Richard Zijlma (director ADE) said half a year ago when we met with him to talk about what we could do when it comes to informing their visitors.

At a time when we had just started recruiting clubs and organizers to work with us on the mission of Celebrate Safe, ADE was a very important partner.

ADE attracts 365,000 visitors from all over the world to visit more than 300 events and club nights in 80 different venues in Amsterdam. This was going to be a lot of work. Full of enthusiasm, we started to work together on our ‘plan of action’.

The idea behind the Celebrate Safe campaign, which initiated from the dance industry itself, and built on the collaboration between organizations and people working and partying in the field (‘with their feet in the mud’) turned out to be the right approach at the right time.

Celebrate Safe

Within the Celebrate Safe campaign, we combine the strengths of everyone who cares about the nightlife community. We all take responsibility for working to create a network in which coordination and cooperation are essential. By communicating in a positive and effective way, we aim to raise awareness amongst visitors and professionals of the risks associated with the nightlife scene and how to limit them. Increasing solidarity, respect for one another and for the environment are important factors in achieving this.

Power of the community approach

We believe strongly in the power of projects coming from the community. Clubbers and partygoers themselves, clubs, organizers, health and peer organizations such as Unity, and security and first aid organizations are all key stakeholders within this community. By truly cooperating, fully utilizing the networks of all parties, taking each other seriously and being willing to respect each other’s expertise we can raise health-related education to a higher level.

Of course, safety and health are not constantly on our minds when we are partying, and we often prefer to focus on other things. None of us wants to feel sick or become deaf, loose all of our friends in the crowds of a festival or end up in the emergency room. To prevent this, we as visitors have a responsibility towards ourselves, our friends, our fellow clubbers and the scene that we are so happy to be part of.

Working with clubs and organizations

The idea that we can influence everyone’s behaviour or constantly monitor it is an illusion, and actually quite a bit of a scary thought. However, it is possible to ensure that the choices we make are based on objective and accurate information, especially when it comes to the risks associated with our behaviors.

Through the cooperation and efforts of clubs and organizations we can reach a huge group of people with this vital information, as they know how to best communicate with their own specific target population. Without pretending to be the experts on health-related issues and without finger pointing, we have been able to create a platform and a reach for our essential harm reduction messages, which up to now we could only dream of. This year’s ADE is a prime example of our success.

Reach at Amsterdam Dance Event

Through ADE’s communication channels, and those of its various partners organizing events during this festival, the educational video produced by Unity reached more than 650,000 people. Alongside ADE (401,900 fans), the organizers of events like Awakenings (586,053 fans), Amsterdam Music Festival (219,652 fans) and many others shared the video and other messages with their target audience, enabling the message to reach much further than Unity’s own 3,566 fans. Nearly 10,000 people received a push message through the ADE festival app each day. 65 Unity volunteers (including 20 colleagues from foreign projects) crewed information stands at 11 parties, and 20,000 Unity information booklets were distributed.

Extra drug checking services provided by Jellinek were also promoted through CS channels; 183 people attended this service. Posters with important health messages were put up in all affiliated clubs, and 70 club managers joined a staff briefing organized by Jellinek.

During the conference we were given the opportunity, in cooperation with ID&T and the Association of Event Makers (VVEM), to share our vision and experiences with an international group of dance industry professionals.

All of this hard work and unprecedented cooperation has not gone unnoticed: positive comments on this approach from within the Netherlands as well as abroad have confirmed our belief that we are on the right path.

Unfortunately it is impossible to eliminate all risks, and despite all of these efforts we were not able to prevent the tragic death of one of our fellow partygoers. Nonetheless, we will continue with our joint efforts and focus on what we can do to prevent future incidents.

2015: take active responsibility

Much has changed in a short time. It was not long ago that Unity faced significant difficultly in collaborating with clubs and organizers, who did not dare to openly communicate significant harm reduction messages for fear of being known as a ‘drug fest’.

Now the partners of Celebrate Safe want everyone to know that they are taking responsibility for educating and informing their visitors using all the communication channels they have at their disposal to get our messages across. These messages are about more than just alcohol and other drug-related information; they are about creating a nightlife culture in which we all feel safe to let ourselves go, have fun, meet like-minded people, work and enjoy the music. And that’s where our goals meet. The goal of Celebrate Safe is for everyone to be healthy and safe while they are having the best time of their lives.

Unique public-private partnership

Celebrate Safe is focussed on empowerment the nightlife scene, but also operates with support from local and national government and is reinforced by the involvement of scientists and prevention organizations.

Celebrate Safe is embraced and supported by the City of Amsterdam and the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport – among others – without it being a governmental campaign. By supporting us, Governments are sending out the important signal that they too have confidence in the capabilities and expertise of the relevant organizations, and the scene itself.

Through this unique public-private partnership a clear tone is set: we are working together to build a structure that provides improved access to prevention for the target population as well as the permanent integration of all relevant aspects of a safer nightlife.

We would like to thank everyone who continues to support us, works with us, provides us with solicited and unsolicited advice – and we call upon all other actors to do the same!

On behalf of all my dedicated colleagues and volunteers at Celebrate Safe, Unity and Jellinek,

Think for yourself, care about others

Judith Noijen

Prevention worker Jellinek, Project manager Unity and coordinator for Celebrate Safe.

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