Rainbow Serpent Music & Arts Festival organiser Tim Harvey has spoken publicly for the first time following the fatal overdose of 22-year-old Jacob Langford at the 2017 bush doof last Saturday night.
Langford could not be saved after reportedly drinking amyl nitrite — a toxic stimulant intended to be inhaled, not consumed — and became the second person to die at the western Victorian farm festival in the space of five years.
His devastated family have since accused organisers of running an unsafe event, calling out the festival for creating an environment of “heat and dehydration” and arguing that “the festival goes way too long without affordable food and drink”.
Now, speaking with triple j‘s Hack programme, the head of the Serpent has defended his event and the people who attend it.
“The festival provides free water at multiple points throughout the venue,” Tim Harvey says. “We also over the weekend provided free electrolytes in an attempt to make sure people were maintaining their hydration.
“Food is stock-standard market-price food. If someone were to present to us in a state where they were hungry, then of course we would make sure they were fed and looked after.”
Harvey also says he’s made an effort to reach out to Langford’s family, but so far hasn’t heard back, saying that he understands they’re in a state “where they’re feeling a lot of very raw emotion”.
The festival’s head honcho has also addressed comments made by Ballarat Superintendent Andrew Allen, who says the “high-risk” event has attracted drug traffickers.
In his response to the claims, Harvey has dubbed the police response “heavy-handed” and hypocritical, arguing that the vast majority of people were doing the right thing.
“You see nine arrests at the Melbourne Cup and 78 evicted in one day,” he says. “The same with the [AFL] Grand Final – one in three drivers in some suburbs are tested with illicit substances in their system, and yet you don’t get the same police response to those events.”
Jacob Langford’s tragic death this year comes after another man suffered a fatal drug overdose at Rainbow Serpent 2012, while the 2015 instalment ended with multiple drug and assault charges and last year had police questioning the future of festival going forward as a result of the “concerning” number of drug-related incidents.
Police have also heavily criticised Rainbow Serpent, pointing out that — as well as Langford’s tragic passing — this year’s event was also marred by a spate of other incidents, including up to 30 drug-driving offences, six drug trafficking offences, a police officer being assaulted and two female attendees reporting sexual assaults.
A MyCause account has been set up to raise money to help Langford’s family with funeral costs, with north of $14,000 donated at the time of writing. You can help out by donating here.