My summer of love: ‘I realised intimacy and tingling excitement could exist alongside sadness’

There is a peculiar romance to British summer music festivals. Some kind of consequence-free hedonism emerges when you combine bouts of torrential rain with the rancid stench of overflowing chemical toilets, the stomach-fizz of morning beers, and the itch of last night’s glitter pressed into your unwashed skin. It makes for the perfect conditions to distract the head and, for once, indulge the heart.

It was the summer of 2010 when I camped out at Reading festival, the August blow-out that 16-year-olds from the UK’s south-east use as a putrid marker of their transition from secondary school to college; from adolescence to something approaching young adulthood.

The need for summer fun had been building over the course of the previous year. After my mum had noticed abdominal pains while dancing to Prince on her 53rd birthday, a series of inconclusive tests and then a major operation revealed that she had terminal cancer. She was given only six months to live.

Read the feature in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 08/07/21]