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Why You Should Know About CREW

Intercultural Youth Scotland
June 22, 2023

As we celebrate PRIDE this month, IYS had the pleasure of catching up with the amazing Drop-In Team at local organisation, CREW – an outreach-based charity specialising in non-stigma-based support... ‘We neither condemn nor condone drug use: we exist to reduce harm, challenge perceptions and help people make positive choices about their use of cannabis, stimulant and other social drugs and sexual health by providing non-judgemental, credible and up to date information and support.’

Lisa, Robs and Mez collectively shared their responses as they talked to IYS about all things relating to community, education, centring people at the heart of their cause, harm reduction and sexual health.

Tell us about yourself and what you do at CREW?

Hi, my name's Lisa Rigby (she/her) and I coordinate CREW's Drop-in Services: the Drop-in team being also Robs (she/they) our Project Worker and Mez (they/them) who is our Digital Youth Worker. I've worked at CREW for 10 years.

When was CREW first established and what was the catalyst to create this service?

CREW, officially Crew 2000, started in late 1992 when a group of young people involved in the Edinburgh club scene at the time saw there was no non-judgemental information available about drugs, so they started putting together made their own info to share with peers. You can see the group in action in a BBC Scotland 'Focal Point' documentary made in 1993:

Society can attach shame and stigma to drug use and awareness. What is CREW's approach to informing and supporting people?

CREW's approach has always been health and choices-focused, using harm reduction principles that centralise justice and human rights. We want to normalise talking about drugs, sexual health and mental health, and break down the stigma that silences people, stops us making more informed choices for ourselves, or supporting each other with better understanding and respect.

CREW have created a community which empowers people with knowledge and understanding which centres the individual. How important is it to cater to lived experience, cultural identities, gender identities, sexual orientation and mobility and what part does that play in supporting people with regards to sexual health and autonomy?

We're so lucky to consistently work with brilliant peer education volunteers who all bring a wealth of knowledge, from a wide intersection of identities and experience: along with young people we support and our drug counselling service clients, their input informs our work. Volunteers and Youth Advisors (people 12-18yrs not able to engage in full volunteering, or where appropriate Young People's 1:1 Service clients who take part in service development), often make the Drop-in their own and get it to reflect themselves.

Lived and living experience definitely helps us connect with local communities, though we wouldn't claim to "know what people are going through" as we cannot own someone else's experiences. The focus of our conversations is always the person we're talking with, being led by that person, and supported by the collective knowledge of everyone at CREW.

Coming into a service to talk about drug use, sexual health or mental health can be daunting for most of us, so we want CREW to be a welcoming space that helps put people at ease.

Tell us about the CREW Nightlife Harm Reduction and how it contributes to the social scene today?

Our Nightlife Harm Reduction can involve a stall at a local nightclub with earplugs, condoms, chewing gum etc, or running chill out or welfare spaces at outdoor dance music events: recent events include Hot Mess, Terminal V and Get2gether's 10th Anniversary bash at Hype. TRNSMT is next. It's a great way of embedding harm reduction as a normal part of the social scene, continuing having insight into current nightlife practices, (confidentially) gather pretty frank info about what people are taking, plus we get to listen to banging tunes and occasionally get a wee dance on too!  

What do you wish you knew as a young person, having the knowledge, you have now?

Wow, where to start? Even though I started clubbing (officially!) around the time CREW came into being, I didn't grow up in Edinburgh. It would have been fantastic to have access to straightforward information about drugs, and confidential chat: it certainly would've helped me make more sense of stuff I was going through at the time and maybe avoid some of the riskier decisions I made!  

I also grew up while the horrendous Section 28 was still in law, so access to info about sexual health and sexuality if you were not heterosexual or cisgender was virtually impossible. As a bi/pansexual person of colour, it's great to now be able to freely chat with people about sexuality and gender identity, while always learning more myself.

On Wed 21st of June, CREW will be hosting their 'Pre-Pride Pop Up!' - how important are your Full Sexual Health Fridays and providing that accessibility for people?

It's sometimes tricky getting access to sexual health services, despite immense efforts of folks like Chalmers Youth Team and other NHS teams. We're lucky to work with NHS ROAM Team, who come to CREW 10am-12pm first Friday of the month to provide free services to anyone, regardless of identity or orientation, who'd like either rapid result HIV and syphilis testing, chlamydia and gonorrhoea testing, or links to PrEP, a prescription that prevents the transmission of HIV. ROAM will also be at CREW on Wed 21st June 11am-1pm for a special Pre-Pride open clinic!

We also love working with Waverley Care, who run a clinic at CREW fortnightly on Thursdays 5-7pm for free rapid HIV & syphilis testing, results in 15mins! You can book a Waverley Care@CREW pop-up appointment here.  

Where is CREW based and what do you offer at your DROP-IN?

We're based at 32 Cockburn St, and our Drop-in opens every afternoon Mon-Sat 1-5pm (except Thursdays 3-7pm); we are closed on Sundays.  

Visitors get free access to  

  • Take Home Naloxone training and kits for anyone 16 or over: naloxone is an opioid overdose reversal drug - essential kit for anyone using opioids, prescribed or otherwise, or those looking after someone who does, as well as frontline workers or workers likely to come across someone experiencing overdose
  • On-site pregnancy testing
  • Confidential chat, with onward support and signposting
  • Connection to CREW's Counselling Support Services, for anyone 18years or over, looking for support around making changes (stabilising, reducing or stopping) to their psychostimulant drug use, including cannabis, ketamine and cocaine.

We also have a Digital Drop-in, where folks can chat with us online during Drop-in opening hours, either by text chat on 07860047501, email to,uk or DMs to our Insta @Crew_2000.

What are some misconceptions young people might have about sexual health and drug use?

A common misconception is that drug use and sexual health are necessarily separate topics, or don't intersect much. Both can and often do have big impacts on the other - shall we talk about Consent here?! How many of us had our first or following sexual experiences while also under the influence of something? If we feel more informed and in control around our drug use, and our sexuality and sexual health, it becomes much easier to prioritise pleasure and positivity and look after our mental health.  

Another other misconception is that you need to be engaged in drug use (including using alcohol or nicotine products like vapes) or be sexually active (even with yourself) to benefit from knowing about it. Our choices and some aspects of our identity can sometimes be fluid and shift at different times in our lives, plus looking after our mates as well as knowing what's right for ourselves is love and power in action!

What could schools and the education system do better to prepare and inform young people, and where do you think youth work services play a part in this?

To be fair, schools are slowly getting better at making space to talk frankly about drugs and sex, though it still often seems like an 'add-on'. We do get asked to chat at schools often, and we're always keen to suggest that more, continuous time be made to embed things like drugs, sex and mental health (and how they all connect) in the curriculum, and staff training, rather than one-offs. No matter what job we might want to do, we still need to know how to look after ourselves!  

What is your favourite PRIDE tune?

Lisa: Tricky one but choices include Controversy by Prince, I Feel Love by Donna Summer or A Little Respect by Erasure (I know, that's 3!).

Robs: Any high camp queer anthem but bonus points for Girl in Red!

Mez: Chaka Khan, anything by Chaka Khan and Chaka Khan always!

If you have been affected by any of the topics mentioned in this article, and you wish to learn more about support, please visit CREW at 32 Cockburn Street or follow the link here for more information.  

You can also reach out to our IYS Youth Work Team at  

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