Q&A with Emily Brunsdon

Written by:
Dominic Streeter
July 30, 2019


Hi Emily. What made you want to make this programme?

Well, I wanted to make this programme because, firstly, it looked like fun. The idea of questioning policy makers about a policy that they chose to implement or one they choose not to change is a very exciting concept to me.

As well as this though, I try to raise awareness of the issues of drug policy and the abstinence-focused approach pushed by the State when I’m around my friends or peers; so the idea of introducing a wider audience to harm reduction beliefs, contradictions in the law and the destructive ways that we treat People Who Use Drugs (PWUDs) will be pretty cool.

Why are you interested in UK drug policy and why did you want that to be the first show?

My dad started working in harm reduction around the time I was born and still does. I have been raised around harm reduction and the lovely people who work in that sector. This means that I understand what a needle exchange is, how drug consumption rooms help people and why only teaching an abstinence first approach in schools is unaccommodating and absurd. I have also been raised (by my parents and other people I’ve met along the way) with a certain philosophy of unconditional love and radical honesty which has led to a certain view of the world that I carry with me.

I’m not sure what age I was but when I realised that not everyone shared these values and views it shocked me. How people had the power to cause harm to individuals in society just because of either how they were born or how they choose to live their life.

What would improve UK society?

Having a lot more urgency around key issues. Climate change is real and it's happening now! We can’t wait until 2050 as outlined by our politicians.

Ambulances, police and fire fighters are not able to reach people in time because they need funding now.

People are dying on our streets because they don’t have the housing or support they need to live safely now.

As well as this, just being person-centred instead of Capitalistic would do a great deal of good. Society and policy makers need to start putting people before money and just focusing on being kinder to each other.

How can we improve UK drug policy?

In sense of drug policy, the first step is using people-first language. I don’t think people understand the harm and stigmatisation that occurs when words like “addict” or “junkie” are used to describe PWUDs.

Secondly, the introduction of drug consumption rooms and more needle exchange programmes, which proper funding. This would not only reduce harm to individuals and the wider community, but would give PWUD a place to go and talk without feeling judged.

Finally, my view is that legalisation of drugs and a regulated drug market is the only way we can ensure that drugs can be used safely. It might sound radical to people but legalisation will reduce crime and free up time for police. it will also mean we have less people unnecessarily in prison. Legalisation will also mean that people will know what they’re taking and how to safely take it; which will lead to less overdoses and drug-related harms.

How would you describe your interview style?

When I do find myself conversing with someone who I don’t agree with I like to think that, while I will remain very respectful, I will be clear that I can see through the inaccuracies in their argument (and I will definitely not take political question dodging as an answer!)

I firmly believe in standing up for myself as a young woman and telling people (especially those in power) how I feel about the situations that they are causing. However, if I am interviewing people to educate myself or find out information, I prefer to let them talk and ask questions when needed in order to clarify or expand. I enjoy hearing people talk, especially concerning topics they are passionate or angry about.

What are you planning on asking our policy makers in the show?

Different policy makers require different questions. If it is someone who believes in harm reduction ideas or legalisation of drugs then I would probably ask how they plan to implement their ideas and why they believe this is the best way forward. If I'm interviewing someone who thinks zero-tolerance, or our current strategies are the best I might not be as calm. I would still have a respectful conversation as you don’t change anybody’s mind by being a dick - however I may be less forgiving in what type of questions I would ask.

I want to ask politicians anything from what they think of the current abstinence / recovery focus we have in this country and what is your opinion on how to support PWUDs to why haven’t the government allowed Scotland to set up the first UK drug consumption room, despite support in the Scottish parliament. I also want to ask politicians their opinions on legalisation.

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