Meet Sherelle: the Walthamstow-born DJ who just closed Glastonbury


‘In terms of where Glastonbury is situated, on plates and all this shit, it’s one of a few places in the world that has naturally good vibes.’ DJ and producer Sherelle and I are standing under a marquee sheltering from the punishingly hot sun mid-way through the festival, chatting about the sacred energy on Worthy Farm. ‘I do feel that when I’m here, I never get super-stressed or anxious.’ Good, because she’s got a busy weekend lined up.

Last year Sherelle packed out the IICON stage, Glastonbury’s new-ish arena for all things dance that popped up in Block9, a hotspot for late-night revelry, becoming a festival favourite. Now she’s returned to oversee an entire weekend’s worth of partying.

Luckily her mate and collaborator, the equally in-demand I. Jordan, is along for the ride. The pair first crossed paths a few years ago after frequently finding themselves on the same line-ups. An outing to the magical LGBTQ+ club NYC Downlow at last year’s festival after seeing Little Simz together only solidified their bond. The best mates have a well-deserved reputation for putting on a great party; at their back-to-back sets, you can expect ridiculously fun takes on rave. The pair trade jokes and hug as they peer together over the decks, cheering on each other’s choices and jumping about with giddy anticipation of the next transition going off. Their energy is infectious.

‘The beautiful thing about our relationship and friendship is that we’re masc, but on two different ends of the spectrum,’ Sherelle says (she is a queer woman, while I. Jordan is trans). Both DJs are also from working-class backgrounds and see clearly the financial barriers and inequalities in the scene as things stand. ‘I’m not being funny. We’re in a living crisis,’ Sherelle says. ‘It’s a lot harder to do shit, in my honest opinion.’ Does she worry about the next generation of DJs? She nods. ‘Yeah, it’s like, you might be able to buy controllers [entry-level decks to practise with] but with what money? It’s all going on heating, water.’

Growing up in Walthamstow, Sherelle discovered dance music listening to pirate radio stations, going on to host her own show on Brixton’s talent-incubating radio station Reprezent. Once she had stumbled across footwork, a dance sub-genre that originated in 1990s Chicago and fuelled dance battles with its energetic blending of house, drum and bass, and hip-hop, most of Sherelle’s key ingredients were in place. She’s now carved out her own path through the industry, founding Hooversound alongside DJ and NTS radio host Naina and setting up record label and free-access studio Beautiful to elevate the voices of Black queer creatives.

Thursday: levelling up

‘What do I like about Sherelle as a DJ? F*** all, she’s f***ing shit,’ I Jordan jokes, before adding (this time seriously): ‘What I like is that she is for the community. She’s the biggest supporter of everyone else around her.’

Backstage at Silver Hayes, behind the enormity of brand new open-air club The Levels, Sherelle is gearing up for her first Glastonbury set of the long weekend, a back-to-back with I Jordan. A close circle of friends and collaborators spills out of their dressing room ahead of their midnight set, passing around tequila and beer. Excitement is high.

By the time the pair enter The Levels’ booth, the anticipation is palpable out front. Throughout, Sherelle hops on to the mic to address the crowd directly. ‘Being so high up, there’s kind of this experience where the DJ feels godlike,’ she reflects post set. ‘We’re not. We’re really just trying to have fun. Getting on the mic hopefully demystifies this thing where they’re just meant to be looking up at me. I don’t agree with that.’

She sticks around to watch Polish techno artist VTSS play the same stage before getting an early night. ‘I caught up with her for a bit, and went to bed,’ Sherelle laughs. ‘We’re not f***ing getting the bags in and having a really heavy night. All I do is drink. F***ing fast music is what keeps me going. I was really happy we ended it like that.’

Friday: spidey senses are tingling

Sherelle is scared of spiders. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be a huge issue except on Friday she plays Arcadia (which, FYI, is a gigantic arachnid). ‘I was well scared,’ she laughs, having emerged not just unscathed but exhuberant. Heading up the winding stairs into the booth, which has a dramatic 360-degree view of the crowds below, she feels (the good kind of) emotional seeing the thousands who have turned out to watch her. ‘That’s the most DJ experience ever,’ she exclaims. ‘A spider that shoots fire!’ After the milestone solo set — easily one of her biggest — she and her mates head to Block9 to revisit the site of last year’s set at IICON.

Saturday: it’s coming home

In the afternoon Sherelle shifts gears and hosts a fascinating live Q&A that examines the shift in women’s football since the Lioness’ victory at last summer’s Euros. A devoted Arsenal fan, she played well into her teens but chose music over kickabouts after she learnt that, in order to train with the Gunners’ girls squad, she would need to commute to Hertfordshire, which was cost-prohibitive. Back then there were few other places for women and young girls to get involved in the sport; but fast-forward to the present and scores of inclusive, LGBTQ+ friendly grassroot clubs in London — from Goaldiggers to Wonderkid — are flourishing with lengthy waiting lists. Women’s matches regularly sell out Wembley. Unsurprisingly she is a thoughtful host, engaging with the audience and introducing them to the likes of Arsenal ladies legend Jen Beattie, and DJ and Dulwich Hamlet striker Monki. The highlight? Monki revealing that an exceedingly jubilant Lucy Bronze kept requesting Atomic Kitten — ‘Which I did not have!’ — as she DJ’d the Lioness’s trophy ceremony in Trafalgar Square.

Being so high up in the booth, there’s kind of this experience where the DJ feels godlike. We’re not. We’re really just trying to have fun

Sunday: the Reflections takeover

Closing out a packed weekend, I. Jordan and Sherelle link up a second time to host a gigantic Reflections all-nighter at the Stonebridge Bar, inviting along The xx’s Romy, New Zealand DJ Half Queen, Glasgow legend Bonzai Bonner, south London’s Fiyahdred and genre-blending duo Faff along for the occasion. As someone who was at Reprezent when they hosted the now infamous The xx takeover, Sherelle says that it felt especially surreal to host Romy. Though I Jordan and Sherelle planned to play separate sets, they ended up inviting up Haai and Taahliah for a ‘four way’ — and the Reflections takeover had the ‘perfect energy’ hitting somewhere between ‘Studio 54 and a gay village fete of rave music… Everyone was just on the same wavelength of happiness and joy and love and fun.’

Monday: the debrief

‘I just got up to wash my hands and it felt like my knees were going to give way,’ croaks a knackered Sherelle, horizontal in bed and enveloped in a large dressing gown. ‘Not a good look.’ Thankfully there’s a takeaway on the way. Once she has recovered the plan is to reflect on the magical weekend as she continues working on her debut record. ‘Realistically, the majority of these beautiful moments and feelings, I’m going to be putting into the album,’ she says.

SHERELLE has teamed up with AIAIAI for the BEAUTIFUL music production studio in London. A free-to-use space intended for Black and queer artists to develop ideas and work on music with the use of professional equipment, and without financial and availability constraints. Apply here.