VERITY LUSH: Lack of empathy over festival tragedy was astonishing

Music festivals and drugs are synonymous.

Friday, 1st June 2018, 7:00 pm
Updated Monday, 18th June 2018, 11:55 pm
Family and friends gather to release balloons in memory of Tommy Cowan who died after being at The Mutiny Festival Picture by: Malcolm Wells

They have been since the days when Rikki Farr first organised the Isle of Wight Festival.

That doesn’t mean that everyone will take them, it doesn’t mean that everyone who does will die.

But it does mean, when tragedy strikes, the finger of blame is pointing all over the show.

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When Tommy Cowan and Georgia Jones, whose mother said she died after taking ‘two pills’, lost their young lives in our city last weekend, any immediate thoughts should have rested solely with the broken families whom they have left behind.

Becoming bogged down in the waggling of judgmental pitchforks, victim-shaming, or simply laying blame at the door of the drug-runners, or the dealers, or the people who manufacture the drugs, is, for this moment, pointless – because where will it end?

The only two things that have ended, with devastating finality, are the lives of those two young people, and the joy and wonder and downright ‘everything’ that they brought to those who loved them.

The vitriol and vile comments of some people on social media was utterly uncalled-for.

The lack of empathy, the disrespectful abuse, and the sheer lack of intellect, was astonishing. Questions must be asked, answers must be found, but in the raw break of grief, allow these mothers and fathers, siblings and friends, and in Tommy’s case, a child, to simply rest a moment.

To find some stillness within the tumult that has engulfed them, one sunny weekend in May, when in one moment all was well with their worlds, and in the next, unfathomable horror reigned.

My thoughts and my greatest sympathy go out to Janine Milburn, Damian Cowan, and their loved ones.

It would do us all good to remember that we may now be adults, accountable for our actions and circumnavigating a world of choice as best we can, but we do begin as babies. We are all somebody’s baby.

Instead of spitting blame, when we ourselves are always far from perfect, it would do us well to picture a baby, sleeping, in their parents’ arms, and to really think before we speak or type.


I drove past King George V playing fields on Wednesday.

There stood the empty expanse of green, bear except for workers who appeared to be combing the ground, presumably to ensure no trace remained of the now infamous ‘bad batch’.

The last time I drove past was Saturday morning, when the queues were already beginning and young people were being dropped off at the roadside.

The unexpected horror of last weekend would never have even been thought of this time last week, and it is this aspect of living – the rocking of one’s world on its axis at the batting of an eyelash – that is the true fact of life.

Grab a hold of it when you have it, try to look after yourself, and try to look after one another.


On one hand, the role of social media following any important event or tragedy, is a useful tool.

It spreads a message swiftly, and it spreads it far and wide.

It is also good to know that people feel passion as opposed to apathy in its wake.

But the blessing and curse of social media is the distance it covers and provides.

The abuse with which people will write, is the kind that is rarely used to the face.

That little barrier of screen, be it laptop, tablet or phone, allows us to think rashly and not calm down before setting to at the keyboard.

Tempers run riot, intonation and nuance are lost, and a lot can be misconstrued.

There’s a lot to be said for waiting and sleeping on something.