106862967 sonic youths bug teeth 9 - Latitude Festival: Debut for Bug Teeth singer with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
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Latitude Festival: Debut for Bug Teeth singer with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome

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Richard Shashamane

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Poppy Johnson performs as Bug Teeth using her voice and a guitar, laptop and loop pedal

A singer-songwriter will battle chronic pain to make her debut at a major music festival eight months after playing her first gig.

Poppy Johnson, 19, has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and said she has to play through the pain and plan gigs carefully.

Performing as Bug Teeth, she has been picked for the BBC Music Introducing stage at Latitude in July.

Poppy said: “It’s the biggest thing I’ve done – it’s mad.”

She started off writing songs and playing her sister’s keyboard in her bedroom in Chelmsford, Essex.

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Latitude has several music stages, along with theatre, poetry, comedy and more… including the multi-coloured sheep by the lake

Currently a model and creative writing student at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, she has only played 12 gigs so far, but started writing tracks in 2015.

“I’ve always wanted to do something like this, but I thought it would be years,” she said.

“Everyone’s really excited – I called my mum and she cried.”

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Bug Teeth

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The singer-songwriter is studying creative writing at the UEA in Norwich

Poppy was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos at birth, which means she is in constant pain due to weak joints and fatigue.

She said gigging could leave her “knocked out afterwards” and she needed to carefully plan performances.

“It’s something I live with,” she said.

“I’m very much a person who ignores it and gets on with it and when I’m gigging I don’t think about what pain I’m in.”

What is Ehlers-Danlos syndrome?

  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome affects connective tissue which supports skin, joints and bones
  • Symptoms include joint hypermobility, dislocations and stretchy skin
  • People with the condition can bruise and fracture easily – and are often in chronic pain

Source: NHS – Ehlers-Danlos syndromes

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The BBC Introducing stage showcases new musical talent

Poppy was nominated by BBC Introducing in Norfolk’s team after uploading her music last October.

The Latitude site, near Southwold in Suffolk, has capacity for 40,000 festival goers.

“It’s crazy – I never thought I’d get this opportunity so I’m just going to enjoy it,” she said.

“I’m luckier than a lot of people with this, but I also get massive stage fright.

“I’m a bit nervous now, but I’ve got to do it if I want to play live.”

BBC Introducing in Norfolk producer Beth Ramsay said the team “fell in love” with Poppy’s music.

“It has been remarkable witnessing Poppy’s artistic journey and we cannot wait to see her perform at Latitude representing our county,” she said.

Bug Teeth’s latest single Emily came out on 12 May.

Poppy made up the name Bug Teeth because she “liked the words” and then found out her mother’s childhood nickname was bug, “which was nice”.

Latitude’s headline acts on the main stage are George Ezra, Snow Patrol and Lana Del Rey.

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