DJ Annie Macmanus: ‘It was a shock to realise I was lonely’

After almost 20 years of working at parties, gigs, and on the radio, the DJ found working from home disorienting and miserable. She found herself slipping into loneliness. But when she learned that many of her friends felt the same way, she took the first steps to rekindling her old self

For 18 years I have DJ-ed in front of crowds of people. I have played festivals, aircraft hangars and warehouses, where the weight of attention, the force of thousands of stares, feels physical. I know the alchemical moment when the right song is played at the right time and a ripple of energy surges through the crowd. I know what thousands of hands raised to the ceiling looks like from the stage and how the phone torches, when held up, resemble a constellation of stars twinkling out of the black. I know the steaming intensity of a small room, too, how faces shine with sweat, fingers stretch upwards, bodies press against each other.

For the first 10 years of my DJ career I needed to be physically in among those bodies. I used to fling myself on to the crowd, to be carried around the room and delivered back to whichever worried-looking tour manager would be standing waiting to haul me back into the DJ booth. As I’ve grown older – and less drunk – crowd surfing has been scaled down to hugging. It is an important exercise, in that it breaks the crowd down to singular people again. I like seeing how the night paints itself on to human faces; dilated pupils, smudged makeup, loose smiles. I like to hear names and stories. I still need that physical connection.

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