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Behind the scenes of Stormzy’s Glastonbury set

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Tawbox

In 2019, Stormzy pulled off one of the most talked-about headline sets at Glastonbury in recent years.

It marked the first time a British black man had taken to that stage, in that slot – and the performance was a celebration of British black culture.

But he didn’t do it all by himself – he hired creative directors Bronksi and Amber Rimell, who run Tawbox.

With the 2020 Glastonbury Festival cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, the BBC has been hosting a virtual line-up, featuring some of the festival’s best performances across the years.

To coincide with the 2020 mash-up, pictures have been shared of Stormzy’s rehearsals and how that 75-minute show came together.

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Tawbox

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Stormzy rehearsing Shut Up with WAR (We Ain’t Regular)

Stormzy performed Shut Up with WAR (We Ain’t Regular), a dance collective from south London.

Amber knew the group and thought they would be perfect alongside the grime star. Later she came across 10-year-old dancer Princess K, on Instagram, and added her to the mix.

“I put this to Stormzy and he was, like, in love with it,” she says.

“When we went into rehearsals, and he saw the piece – he was blown away by the talent in the room.”

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Tawbox

Bronksi and Amber worked with a set designer called Misty Buckley.

She has a huge amount of experience, from the Superbowl halftime show to the Brit Awards and Glastonbury.

The set featured layers of video which allowed Bronski and Amber to visually support the narrative of Stormzy’s 75-minute set.

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Tawbox

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Bronski, Amber and assistant choreographers Nathaniel Jones and Callum Powell during rehearsals.

One of the most powerful moments of the set was Blinded By Your Grace: pt2. The singers were from The Music Confectionery, a black-owned music talent company.

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Tawbox

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Stormzy watches as the choir practise their vocals and choreography.

Amber says planning and rehearsing began about eight months before Stormzy took to the stage at Worthy Farm.

Bronski says it was the biggest set that has ever been on the Pyramid Stage.

“And believe it or not, the Pyramid Stage is actually really small,” he says. “So we pushed it to its boundaries, in terms of how big and heavy a set we could get in there.”

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Tawbox

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Stormzy joining the rehearsals for Blinded By Your Grace pt2.

When asked what the most challenging moment of the whole experience was, Bronski said it was George Ezra,

He was on the Pyramid Stage before Stormzy and ran over by five minutes.

“It went right to the wire,” Bronski admits. “But fortunately, by the time the set team were happy, lighting, video and sound were all happy [too] – it was show time and we were good to go.”

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Tawbox

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Singers from The Music Confectionery rehearsing the interlude Saved Me.

The interlude Saved Me featured two pillars, intended to represent south London, where Stormzy grew up.

It also, memorably, featured Ballet Black.

Stormzy had told Bronksi and Amber that he wanted them on stage with him, but he didn’t know how involve them.

Amber says she did some research and discovered they had helped create ballet shoes in different skin tones. So they incorporated their story, using dancers and visuals.

“I thought using that to celebrate the fact that the ballet world has moved [on] so much would be great,” she explains.

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Tawbox

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Stormzy rehearsing First Things First

“Negative space is important in theatrics,” Bronski says, as he talks about Stormzy’s performance of First Things First and their decision to make the selected words from the track stand out even more by having lots of space between them.

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Tawbox

Stormzy finished his 75-minute set with Too Big For Your Boots.

Bronski and Amber say they wanted a hard visual to end the show and accompany the stomping track.

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Tawbox

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Stormzy leaving his dressing room to head to the Pyramid Stage in 2019

“I remember seeing him before he walked on stage,” Amber says.

All the planning and rehearsing had led to this moment.

“He was stood backstage in his dressing room, pacing, and I just looked at him and just nodded at him.

“I didn’t say anything. I just nodded at him. And he nodded back at me, and then I left him.

“You could just see how much it meant to him.”

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