Pioneering harm reduction work launched

Today, Bristol starts to deliver another first in the UK – if not the world. We become the first city to take a truly coordinated approach to reducing the harm caused by drugs and alcohol in the night time economy, with a new toolkit and campaign launched to improve safety in the sector.

This latest campaign from Bristol Nights, backed Bristol City Council, Avon & Somerset Police, and a number of city partners, begins a unified, safety-first approach towards drug and alcohol use in our city.

This approach encourages venues to recognise the risks of drug and alcohol use and aims to train everyone involved in the night time economy with the information and tools to promote safe environments. In practical terms, this will likely mean supporting intoxicated people with trained staff, who can get medical assistance when needed, rather than ejecting them. As a harbour city, ensuring that our vibrant diversity of night time venues adopt and practice harm reduction will help to save lives.

Taking a One City approach to collaborating across the institutions that make up Bristol fits perfectly with other night time economy initiatives, including the award-winning Bristol Rules campaign. We’re also building on the success of other previous campaigns associated with Drink Spiking, taking a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment, and delivering a Women’s Safety Charter.

It will no doubt mean challenging conversations but this city-wide approach to harm reduction really can stand apart from the venue-led approaches of other cities like Amsterdam and Zurich.  Venues on the frontline will know that all of Bristol, including the police and licensing authority, have their back in taking steps to reduce the wider harms caused by drugs. We hope that this will offer a blueprint to the sector, and cities elsewhere which are split across different licensing authorities or continue to take a zero-tolerance approach.

Bristol Nights Drug and Alcohol harm reduction guide poster. Two women looking at posters that read: 'Look Out For Your Mates', 'Know Your Highs And The Lows' and 'Take It Easy'.

Carly Heath, our Night Time Economy Advisor, and Councillor Ellie King, Cabinet Member for Public Health, are focused on working with partners to develop a human-centred approach and provide judgement-free solutions to reduce risk, while continuing to encourage people to report anyone involved in the supply of illegal drugs to local police. This approach will be supported by the first regular drug checking service of its kind, provided by The Loop.

This latest campaign is part of a series of actions being taken to improve safety in the night time economy and further delivers the Drug and Alcohol Strategy adopted in 2021.

In the past couple of weeks we have also committed over £1.2 million of grant funding over two years to provide housing support for individuals with drug and alcohol dependencies who are facing homelessness.

Whilst today’s campaign launch will focus efforts on reducing harm in the night time economy, it joins a suite of activity that aims to evolve the approach we take to deal with the impacts that drugs and alcohol have on our city.