The last Black Deer Festival took place in 2019, despite plans for the event to take place during the pandemic plans were scuppered each time at the very last milestone. We’ve been to Black Deer every year since the event first took place in 2018 and it honestly keeps getting bigger and better every year. Needless to say we were pretty pumped in the run up to this year’s event – and we were not disappointed.
Read our 2019 review here.
About Black Deer Festival
The Black Deer Festival is celebration of all things Americana and Country. An excuse for many to don their finest cowgirl or hilly billy attire and say a big YeeHaa to life for the weekend. Founded by Gill Tee and Debs Shilling the event has been born out of a desire to not only bring real roots-inspired music to the UK, but also the way of life. This was only the festival’s third event, yet they already have a number of awards and accolades to their name and it’s easy to see why.
Even if you’re not a Country music super fan there will be names you’ve heard of and want to see on any Black Deer line-up. Over the years I’ve seen Kiefer Sutherland, Kris Kristofferson, Billy Bragg, The John Butler Trio and Alabama 3 heading the bill. This year was no exception with Van Morrison, James, Imelda May, Jake Bugg and the Waterboys set to take on the Main Stage. I felt that the live performances had really upped their game this year with huge audience turn out for most performances and an eager reception from festival deprived music lovers. It was impossible to see everything I wanted to, but these were a few of my music highlights…
Having loved this band since the early 90’s I was so looking forward to seeing them play live as Friday nights headliner. Tim Booth charmed the crowd with his funny and slightly spiritual stage chat pulling out some of his unique dance moves along the way. They played all their most loved hits (well nearly all, I was waiting for Laid but it never came) including Getting Away With It, Born of Frustration, Come Home and of course Sit Down. It was awesome. I loved every minute as did everyone else in that audience. A jubilant start to the weekend.
A band I’m not so familiar with, but as is the joy of festivals, fell in love with whilst watching their set on the Sunday afternoon. Ward Thomas are a British country music duo from Hampshire. The twin sisters sang dulcet tones, some of which I recognised, others that were completely new to me – but all of which I liked. Having done some research post show I’ve discovered that one of their major influences growing up were the Dixie Chicks. I can totally hear that. A band I’ll take with me, thank you Black Deer.
From newly discovered acts to old favourites – Ben falls into the latter category for me. Another singer I’ve loved since the 90’s (Ben used to perform as part of the band Gomez) I’ve seen Ben play live numerous times over the years and he’s always flawless. This performance stood out for me as I had my 6 year old son there by my side soaking up the melodies through his little ear defenders. One of the things I love about festivals is having the opportunity to introduce my kids to the joy of live music.
Black Water County
We caught the second half of Black Water County in the Roadhouse on the Friday night. These guys had the whole tent bouncing around with smiles! Hailing from the West Country their music genre is described described as Celtic Punk. Their stage presence was mesmerising with the female lead blending punk vocals with her tin whistle effortlessly. I’d love to see these guys again. Will definitely be looking out for future tour dates.
Food, BBQ’s and cooking are a massive part of the Black Deer formula. The Live Fire area of the festival brings a blend of low n slow firepits, custom smokers, live cooking demos and even a few crazy food eating contests. There are so many tempting places to eat I felt like I was constantly eyeing up my next meal! We loved watching the chilli eating contest on the Saturday afternoon -utterly captivating entertainment! The ‘lucky’ contestants had to prove their capabilities by eating increasingly hotter chillies without succumbing to the cool glass of milk sat in front of them. A unique experience and something we really enjoyed watching as a family.
Black Deer always make huge efforts to make sure that their younger guests have as much to keep them entertained as their music loving parents. This year was no exception. The Young Folk area is set up towards the rear of the main field, away from the noise and chaos of the main arenas. They have their own time tabled events such as silent discos, entertainers and live music demos as well as various work shops and activities taking place throughout the day. Activities on offer this year included skate school, zip wire and tree climbing, slackline walking and one of our festival faves the Woodland Tribe. As the weather was a bit hit and miss over the weekend our two took shelter in the cosy Freckles on the Inside craft tent making colourful Kawaii foam creations.
The three year wait was so worth it. I have a deep affection for Black Deer and this year’s festival only affirmed this feeling. The event stands out as one of the best in the South East region for the calibre of music and artists whilst creating a laid back, welcoming and come as as you are vibe for all attendees – music fans or not. This year’s event felt bigger, busier and more vibrant than previous years. It’s clear interest and love for Black Deer has gained a natural momentum which can only mean good things for the future… bring on Black Deer 2023!
With thanks to the Black Deer team for inviting to visit their wonderful festival. If you’d like to buy tickets for Black Deer 2023 you can do so here.