In 2008 we went to see Britney Spears play Heaven – the nightclub not the utopian afterlife.
Long story short, the crowd was too rowdy and she refused to come on.
The throng angered, surged.
I felt myself being lifted from the floor and my shoes slipping from my feet.
Somehow I’d lost my friends in the panic but a stranger saw me slipping down and grabbed my arm. We held on to each other as the mass of people moved forward.
When the crush held still, we could suddenly feel the burning heat. At the front, bouncers were throwing bottles of water into the crowd. Me and this stranger blew onto each others’ faces to stay cool, which seems absurd in retrospect but at the time felt vital.
I don’t know how long we stayed like that – probably not as long as it felt.
When the mass began moving forward again, the bouncers started pulling people up on to the stage to make room. We saw people rise up, then scatter into freedom.
Eventually we got to the front. The stranger was hoisted on to the stage first, then he reached down and pulled me up after him.
Relief. A surge of air around me like breathing.
We hugged like family because we had survived and because we would never see each other again.
I found my friends and I remember we waited around for a weirdly long time afterwards in case maybe, even after a near-riot, she might play. Someone saw her wave from a balcony while I was in the toilet.
I realise now I never even bothered to search for my shoes.
In the end we left into a torrential downpour and waited for the bus home on Waterloo Bridge in the early hours of the morning. The muddy pavement soaked up through my socks.
And I never did see Britney Spears.
And that’s probably the best story I have.
A version of this post was sent by email on the 13th September 2020 as part of Internet Care Package – a weekly memoir project in the form of a newsletter. It also includes links to the best things I’ve found on the internet each week and occasional updates on my theatremaking. This blog is a select archive of those emails. Subscribe to get them right in your inbox.