THE BLOG

Going To Glastonbury Blind

20/06/2017 16:10 | Updated 21 June 2017

Music is a huge part of my life, and I've spent the last 10 summers raving to my favourite bands at festivals including Nozstock: The Hidden Valley, Boomtown and The Big Chill.

Looking at me in my festival gear, arms in the air and drink in hand, my fellow festivalgoers wouldn't know it, but I'm registered blind.

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Kirsty James (centre) with friends at a festival

I lost my sight in 2012 having been diagnosed with a condition called Stargardt's disease a few years before. I have no central vision, but some peripheral vision and can see shapes and colours. I also have Charles Bonnet syndrome - a condition where messages from the eye to the brain get confused causing all sorts of weird and wonderful hallucinations.

Sight loss means I've had to adapt so I can still lead the life I choose to, doing things a little more slowly and asking for help. My husband, Tom, is amazing describing things to me, and I rely on him to tell me if clothes look good - he's had to learn a lot about "girl things"!

I also have a wonderful guide dog called Bass, who has given me back my independence, so I can get out and about on my own. The trust and freedom he's taught me is incredible and I couldn't be without him.

But every summer, I leave my white cane and Bass behind and head to Nozstock - my favourite festival which is a real home away from home.

What I love most about festivals is the freedom and escapism they bring me. I don't feel visually impaired as everyone is so friendly and happy if you bump into someone, they don't care. Most people just think I'm drunk.

That said, sight loss at a festival can be expensive if you don't ask for help. I once paid a tenner for a wrap at a food stand, but I don't even like wraps - I thought it was a baguette!

Without Bass, I rely on my friends and Tom to guide me, especially at night or over uneven ground that all looks flat to me, and in crowds where I just follow them through. As The Beatles famously said, I get by with a little help from my friends.

And when it comes to the mud, wind and rain, it's part of festival life, so I embrace it - it's hilarious when my guide is slipping and sliding all over the place whilst trying to keep me on track!

I've had so many memorable moments at festivals, but for me, there's an obvious winner. The first time I told my now-husband I loved him was at Nozstock when he was DJing - I was in the crowd and undid my hoodie to reveal a t-shirt that said "I Love You", but it was busy and dark and I couldn't see if he had noticed. I didn't think that part of the romantic gesture through, but we're now married so the gamble obviously paid off!

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Kirsty James and husband, Tom, at Nozstock: The Hidden Valley

Every festival I've been to has been fantastic in terms of supporting people with sight loss, but one thing I'd love to see is accessible programmes - that way I could see who's on rather than relying on recommendations from others.

I've never been to Glastonbury before, but it's always been on my bucket list so I'm really excited to be there this week to represent the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and spread the word about eye health and the importance of regular eye tests. Plus I can't wait to see Hacienda Classical and Noisia who are performing on my wedding anniversary.

You can find out more on RNIB's website or by following #EyeTestKaraoke on social media.

Or, if you're lucky enough to have a Glastonbury ticket, come and visit our tent to the right of the iconic Pyramid Stage.

Kirsty James, 27, is registered blind and is off to Glastonbury to represent the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) - the Festival's health charity partner for 2017.

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