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Glastonbury 2023

I’m alone, but somehow not fully alone, nodding at others with sleeping bags and flip flops strapped to their hermit-shell packs. Biblical mud feels like a bad dream, looking out onto this temporary city shimmering beneath orange-blue twilight. We’ve constructed this pyramid, these musical altars, in honour of worship, their transience coalescing into beauty. Wide-eyed atop the hill, a child-like wonder overcomes him – he succumbs to the newness of it all. We look up and laugh, yet don’t we also wish to join him there on the other side? I wish I could see everything, feel everything, experience everything, like a God. I wonder if I ever fully arrive at each moment, or perpetually look over my shoulder in anticipation of the next. At least this time I know my way around better – it’s muscle memory. A flurry of impressions so experienced so rapidly and vividly that they can only be unpacked days or weeks later, re-lived through photos and iPlayer: seeking out the first murmur of music buried deep in the green glade; a sea of bodies packed tight, the panic and pushing, the sweet relief of open space; trying to break the record for the most people on top of shoulders; strangers around you suddenly illuminated bright-red by a nearby flare as you enjoy its strangely intoxicating scent; someone holding a sign with “THIS IS SHIT” on one side and “THIS IS ACE” on the other (the DJ’s take note), the sense of pride at spotting a flag with “The Bromley Massive” on it; feeling the welcome warmth of biofuels beneath the legs of Arcadia’s; thinking people care about my step-count, or the number of song’s I’ve managed to ID; hearing the dawn announced by the birds perched nearby, a stone-circle sunrise seen literally through rose-tinted glasses; salvation in the form of a massive falafel salad. Here, the “normal” world seems very, very, very far away: a land where introverts by day become extroverts by night – untethered, multitudinous, fluttering from person to person, everything suffused with a collective energy so tangible you can feel it zap from person to person. Not to be “that” person, but there’s definitely a reason people bang on about this festival all the time…

I’ve never felt particularly comfortable asking strangers if I can take their photo – there’s something in the question that seems intrusive, requiring the subject to surrender momentarily to the camera’s cold, black glass (and the faceless person behind it). Yet, at Glastonbury this year, these impromptu portraits became a means of meeting people whom I wouldn’t normally have found the courage to say hi to. My film camera gave me the opportunity to pay an honest compliment: “I love your outfit!” or “You two make a lovely couple!”, “Can you show me how you dance like that?” – or even ask the question: “how many Glastonbury’s has it been for you then?!” (sorry Paul…) – and then attempt to capture that compliment visually. I hope these pictures encapsulate some of that joy we have all felt when discovering a brief island of connection amidst what often feels like a sea of solipsism and loneliness. I only wish I wrote some of their emails down – if only to show them the developed portraits! But in some ways it’s fitting that we remain strangers, our brief meeting preserved only through millions and millions of silver halide crystals, still shimmering with the energy of that encounter.

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