Black Deer steers family towards Country

13 Jul

Ignoring worries of line dancing and Dolly Parton on repeat, I left the cosy confines of my home with an open mind and an unnecessary amount of camping kit to attend the first Black Deer Festival.

The festival was held in the picturesque setting of Eridge Park, reputed as the oldest enclosed deer park in England. After voicing my concerns about stags massacring the tents, I was reassured that they had been moved for the weekend and were not, as I feared, being prepared for a live fire stage cooking demonstration.

Quicker and cheaper than a flight to Dallas – albeit a long walk from the car park – we were swiftly transported to a new world. The world of Americana and Country.

Site of Blsck DeerThe Black Deer campsite at dusk.

The site itself resembled a friendly set of sci-fi TV show West World – peppered with Stetsons, booze, barbecue food and music. It was a genius move by the organisers to put the bar next to the children’s Young Folk area.

black Deer entrance .jpgMillie Smith entering The Black Deer Festival

The security high tower overseeing the campsite was disconcerting, however it was benevolently useful when locating free-range children, not a problem for my kids as they spent a majority of the time suspended from a tree, courtesy of one of the many Young Folk activities.

The festival was clearly borne of passion and hard work with people at the centre of its operation, creating a community, supporting emerging talents and feeding new experiences with music and stories.

Haley’s Bar was a moving tribute to the brother of Black Deer’s Co-Founder, Gill Tee’s, who was killed at 19 years old. His music was the soundtrack to her youth – he had been an avid guitarist and country music fan. Her mission was a party that would have made him proud.

The Supajam Stage showcased emerging and established artists and was run by the Supajam organisation, who educate disadvantaged and vulnerable young adults. An excellent opportunity for them, but a risky move for a festival in its first year which paid off.

In my opinion, music and planning do not make a festival, good people and atmosphere do, both in staff and visitors. And they got this right. Strangers spoke, visitors shared experiences, and all were intoxicated with the atmosphere of appreciation.

Amidst the music and daily fixtures, the festival featured a morning 5k run and yoga session to escape the noise and explore the beautiful surroundings if they wanted too.

Kids were encouraged to explore the festival and their freedom, building their own adventure playground/town and high-top tree climbing, courtesy of Woodland Tribe. The hilarious Herbie Treehead was a must-see not least to check out his impressive song collection.

children lost in a tree .jpgThe children tree climb in the Young Folk area

Kiefer Sutherland, known more for his films than his music, was seen walking amongst the crowd after his set. I still haven’t forgiven my children for missing this!

Kiefer wasn’t the only sacrifice I made as a festival-going mum. Despite the family friendly-atmosphere and activities, playing host to five children (!) inevitably meant we saw little of the live music offering but at least we enjoyed the music which carried across to our tent, and still felt part of the overall experience.

The Black Deer Festival afforded my children the freedom to roam and I, as a parent the opportunity to let go – something we rarely experience in everyday life and hope to revisit again next year.

The Black Deer Festival ran between Friday 22nd June – Sunday 23rd June 2018, at                Eridge Green Tunbridge Wells, Frant, Tunbridge Wells TN3 9JT

For more information,

Next year’s Black Deer Festival runs – Friday 21st June – Sunday 23rd June 2019

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