About 23,000 people attended last year’s Kendal Calling music festival. Most had a great time. One never came home.

Eighteen-year-old Christian Pay, from Millom, fell ill after taking illegal drugs during the festival at Lowther Deer Park, near Penrith.

He was taken to the Cumberland Infirmary and died there.

Another eight people were taken to hospital. All were thought to have suffered the effects of drugs.

Three men have been convicted of conspiracy to supply class A drugs in connection with Christian Pay’s death. They will be sentenced in August.

Meanwhile thousands of people are at Glastonbury this weekend for the first of the summer’s big festivals.

Kendal Calling returns next month. Organisers this week said their priorities are preventing illegal drugs getting on site, pursuing anyone suspected of supplying drugs, and protecting festival goers.

Thousands will also gather at other festivals around Cumbria this summer, such as Solfest, near Aspatria, in August.

There is sometimes a fine line between an event to remember and a nightmare experience.

Illegal drugs can have devastating effects. The problem is that they can also be pleasurable, which is why some people are prepared to gamble with their health.

Helen Davies, of Cumbria Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service (Cadas), said: “People want to go out there and have fun. A lot of these substances can enhance that. That’s why people take them.

“I would say, try and have a good time without using substances. We’re realistic as well. If people are going to choose to use things, it’s about doing it in moderation and as safely as they possibly can. You can never remove all risks.”

Helen stresses that the decision to use illegal drugs at festivals is often made after people have used a legal drug.

“Once people get caught up in the atmosphere it’s really difficult to remember these sorts of warnings, especially when people start drinking alcohol. That’s the drug of choice for most people.

“The first thing that alcohol affects is the part of the brain that keeps us safe.”

Many festival goers have used ‘legal highs’ – chemicals designed to give the same effect as drugs like cannabis and cocaine.

Last year these were linked to more than 100 deaths in the UK. A blanket ban came into force last month.

Helen says: “If people see stuff like that being sold, the likelihood is that they’ll be breaking the law, definitely by supplying it. And supplying could be giving it to your mates.

Helen Davies “You could have a lot of serious problems with those substances. We’re not sure of the long-term effects but we’ve seen pretty devastating short-term effects. People being hospitalised or locked up because of aggressive behaviour.”

The Royal Society for Public Health and the Faculty of Public Health both recently called for the possession and personal use of all illegal drugs to be decriminalised.

Helen sees pros and cons in such a move. “When things get legalised, people assume that means they’re safe. It doesn’t necessarily mean that. There would need to be a lot more regulation for people to make an informed choice, and there would need to be quality control.

“If people were to buy an ecstasy tablet here and in London, they would need to know exactly what they were getting wherever it was from.

“When it’s unregulated you have no idea what’s in it. That’s often the most dangerous aspect.”

Cadas will have volunteers at Kendal Calling working with the festival’s own crew. Helen stresses that people’s priority, at festivals and anywhere else, should be seeking medical attention if necessary rather than worrying about the law.

“If people are worried that they or a mate are acting strangely or physically having a hard time, don’t hesitate to get some help.

“A lot of people get a bit scared. If they do take something illegal they think they’re going to get in trouble.

“The medical guys are not bothered about that. They just need to know as much as they can about what a person has taken, to help them.”

Colin Cox Colin Cox is Cumbria County Council’s director of public health. He said: “The critical thing for us is, people need to be aware that substances that are circulating at festivals might not be the same substances they’ve tried before. That’s why we encourage people to be very careful.

“We are working with festival organisers. They work hard to be on top of things. Clearly it’s very difficult to prevent any illegal substances being brought into a festival but they do try.”

Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner Peter McCall says the force cannot be expected to lead the search for drugs at festivals.

“Festivals are an obvious target for people selling drugs. Festival security is very much for the organisers. Clearly the police can’t manage the internal security of every event that goes on.

“None of us wants to live in a police state. And frankly we don’t have the resources to be hanging around every festival site. But obviously there’s a police interest if crimes are committed.”

He believes that tackling drug use at festivals and in wider society should begin with education by parents.

“It is incumbent on us all to take responsibility and make sure people understand. There’s a lot to be said for going along with your mates and looking out for each other. Watch out for spiking of drinks.

“Ultimately people have got to take responsibility for their own decisions. I’d just say to people, avoid it. That’s your safest bet.

“It’s a totally unregulated business. Every time you take that stuff you’re taking a massive risk. Your body is not designed for it.

“It’s about being sensible. It’s very easy to sound like a killjoy. But I do hope that people coming to festivals will reflect on these sorts of things.”

As to whether drugs should be legalised, he says: “I know that there are arguments on both sides of the debate. I have worked with drug addicts and recovering addicts, and have seen the devastation addiction causes. My personal view is that we should not make drugs more accessible, and particularly not to vulnerable young people.”

Helen Davies added: “People might think ‘That’s not going to happen to me.’ But it happens to someone.”

The organisers of Kendal Calling have issued this statement:

The organisers will continue to maintain a robust approach to anyone attempting to bring illegal drugs into the event.

The protection of vulnerable persons from harm is the main priority for event organisers and all partners involved in Kendal Calling 2016. Working closely with Cumbria police, we are determined to prevent illegal drugs being brought into the event. To achieve this we will have a rigorous search on entry process, including trained staff and drug detection dogs at every entrance.

Anyone leaving the event, including to car parks, will be required to pass through the search process again at each re-entry.

During the event both uniformed and plain clothes resources will be identifying and tackling any person suspected of illegal drugs activity.

We will closely monitor and analyse any drugs seized and, through proactive use of social media, raise awareness as quickly as possible should any particularly high-risk substances be identified within the festival.

Kendal Calling will provide a ‘drugs and alcohol advice point’ to provide confidential advice and guidance to festival goers who have any concerns, whilst promoting an anti-drug message.

We want to make it clear that any person found with any amount of illegal substances will not be allowed to enter or remain at the event and that we will fully support Cumbria police in any circumstances where they decide that prosecution is appropriate.

Help us to keep our event as safe as possible – if you see anyone that you believe is involved in illegal drugs supply, say something about it so that we can do something about it.