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Stroboscopic Epilepsy at Music Festivals.

Andy Robertson

Around 1.2% of the population suffer from some form of epilepsy. The dangers for suffers is greatly increased when attending live entertainment where light shows are used. What can music festival organisers do to manage this risk to ensure the safety and wellbeing of festival-goers prone to seizures.

According the Epilepsy Foundation of America some 3% of epilepsy sufferers are prone to photosensitive epilepsy. The use of stroboscopic lighting displays commonly used for live concerts and music festivals are known to trigger epileptic seizures. Research* published in the journal BMJ Open from the Netherlands in 2019 found that the lighting used at EDM festivals can triple the risk of epileptic seizures - and stroboscopic lighting could be an important part of the cause.

Contributing Factors. 
The lights shows used during a night time event can create an ideal environment to trigger seizures. The combination of flashing lights, brightness, contrast with a dark background and wavelength of the light can determine the likely impact. Typically, the frequency most likely to trigger seizures are between of 5 to 30 flashes per second (Hertz). For individual sufferers there are additional triggers that contribute to a likely seizure with consumption of alcohol and drugs being the most common cause. In addition, tiredness seems to be a key factor too and with some festivals lasting numerous days suffers are more likely to get tired.

In all pre-event materials, it is important to inform ticket buyers that the festival uses strobe lighting effects and to promote awareness of likely triggers. Some simple advice for known suffers may include avoiding direct contact with flashing lights along with avoiding alcohol and drug consumption. This information can also be useful for all festival-goers who are perhaps accompanying a known sufferer and help guide them safely through the festival experience. Similar warning signs can be posted on-site too which helps reinforce the messaging.

Medical Facilities. 
It is prudent for organisers to have someone attending their medical facilities with the knowledge and experience to deal with festival-goers that suffer from seizures. Most epilepsy suffers take medication and carry this with them if attending events along with medial notes on their condition and treatment. This helps medical staff deal with someone appropriately should a festival-goers be diagnosed after a seizure on-site. 

Just because someone suffers from epilepsy it should not prevent them from attending a music festival but they should adhere to the generally accepted advice to reduce the risk of a seizure. It is common sense for any sufferers to be accompanied by friends who can monitor their behaviour and take steps to help them avoid the usual triggers. 

For festival organisers planning their events using a software management platform like Festival Pro gives them all the functionality they need manage every aspect of their event logistics. The guys who are responsible for this software have been in the front line of event management for many years and the features are built from that experience and are performance artists themselves. The Festival Pro platform is easy to use and has comprehensive features with specific modules for managing artists, contractors, venues/stages, vendors, volunteers, sponsors, guestlists, ticketing, cashless payments and contactless ordering.

*Salet, N., Visser, M., Stam, C., & Smulders, Y. M. (2019). Stroboscopic light effects during electronic dance music festivals and photosensitive epilepsy
Photo by Sebastian Ervi via Pexels

Andy Robertson
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