Dr Giulia Zampini on the debate we can’t avoid any longer

How would you describe People and Dancefloors in one sentence?

The project explores different peoples’ motivations for going out to dance to music, while also discussing the role that drugs and drug policy play in this environment and beyond.

What is the film about? 

The film is a short documentary which is part of a broader research and activism project. Participants were invited to share their stories about their relationship with dancefloors and drugs through on-camera, face to face interviews, but also audio interviews and written contributions.

Interview material was edited into themes that are recurring across participants’ narratives. These include the importance of dancefloors and music in their lives, the role drugs play within and beyond the dancefloor environment, and their effect on participants’ lives and identities. We also look at the double standard that exists in British society in terms of its relationship with alcohol versus other drugs, and the need to have a sensible and open debate about these issues.

What is the voice of drugs users and what does it say? 

We started from a very simple observation: people who use drugs barely feature in public debates about issues that concern and affect them directly. Providing a space for people who use drugs to talk openly and publicly about their experiences is important to challenge any misconception that may exist and to better understand their perspectives. People’s experiences are complex and nuanced and cannot be simplistically pigeonholed. Everyone has a different story to tell, but they all seem to agree that there should be a more honest discussion about drugs in our society. The voices are unanimous: drugs provide benefits and positive experiences as well as negative ones, and this should be acknowledged. Put simply, the stigma surrounding drugs does not benefit anyone.  

How long did it take to make the film?

In January and February 2019, we shot the interviews and background footage in London and Bristol over two weekends. Contributors from the UK and abroad sent in up until April 2019. We then did some collaborative editing of all the material. In July 2019, we organised a review screening with the participants to ensure they were happy with the film and its content. And in November 2019, we finally screened at the University of Greenwich!

How are drugs and dancefloors related?

The film touches on the relationship between dancefloors and drugs through participants’ own accounts and observations. Through time and space, dancefloors and drugs have always been connected. Plants with psychoactive properties and alcohol were used during dancing rituals for centuries. With time and discoveries in chemistry, of course, substances may have changed. In parallel, dancefloors are increasingly commercially exploited in our consumption-based economies. Until today, the relationship between dancefloors and drugs has been ever present.

Who should see the film?

The film is suitable for any adult audience, so all staff and students are welcome to attend. Our hope is that the film sparks curiosity and dialogue about the issues it exposes. If staff and students have experiences of dancefloors, if dancefloors have played a role in their lives, they should find these discussions interesting and relevant, whether they have used drugs in that context or not. My guess is that most people will have drunk alcohol in that environment, which is a drug.

Anyone who has an interest in the relationship between people, dancefloors and drugs and who thinks that our society could do with talking about this issue more honestly will find this film interesting.

What is the a relation between drugs, art and young people?

Drugs have become a mainstay in British society. For young people in particular, data from the office for national statistics shows an increase in drug use with 16-24 year olds and with 11-15 year olds. Drug use is motivated by all sorts of things, though it does seem to be a relatively constant feature in both producing and consuming art, and particularly music.

Questions by Yoana Kostadinova

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