For one weekend every year, Eridge Park – a historic deer park in East Sussex – finds itself transformed from quiet, pastoral estate to energetic festival abuzz with fervent Americana fans.
Black Deer Festival offers just about the very best of country and Americana music, and all that it encompasses. Eclectic but dedicated, full-on but friendly, it's a true haven for those lucky enough to pass through its gates.
Born from a shared passion between two friends, Deborah Shilling and Gill Tee, to bring true Americana and country music, as well as its way of life to the UK, it soon cemented itself as a firm favourite in the festival calendar. They’ve also been strong supporters of female artists since day one, with 70% of acts having female representation this year.
From the moment you set foot inside its walls, it’s clear that their country roots go deep into the foundation of the festival. From the subtle, BBQ smells of smoking fires, to the revving engines of The Roadhouse happenings - once inside the grounds, you are transported. Like any great festival, the music is the true binding agent, bringing all the people and sub-genres together in celebration of what we are all truly there for.
Previous years have boasted big names like Kris Kristofferson, Van Morrison and Jake Bugg, and this year is no exception. From musical legends to emerging talent, there’s a stacked line-up with an exciting and varied range of artists, with The Pretenders, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats and Bonnie Raitt all set to take centre stage this year, as well as the likes of crowd-favourites The Teskey Brothers and Allison Russell putting in performances.
In every corner of the festival set up there is something fun to be found and hidden gems to be discovered. You can dress the part with vintage shops selling authentic cowboy hats and clothing boutiques, or carve your own wooden spoon at the craft tents. There’s a never ending offering of epic activities for young folk, as well as some similarly exciting options for reluctant adults too, such axe-throwing and a bucking bronco.
We’ve put together a list of 10 not-to-be-missed moments at the festival, so be sure you check them out:
An iconic holy trinity hailing from Arkansas: Jude Brothers, Willi Carlisle and Dylan Earl have become quite the crowd-pleaser. Pairing perfect vocals and impressive musicianship and with some big personalities and even bigger chemistry, they’re just about the perfect representatives of what country music’s all about. They'll join forces for the second round of their famous hootenanny.
This high-spirited stage, encased in corrugated iron with a bustling bar inside, is exactly where you want to be after dark. Sometimes with a queue backed up outside the tent, and usually home to a boisterous attitude inside it, this is the place to be when the sun begins to set.
The rough-around-the-edges destination that celebrates the best of Americana counter-culture and its diesel-fuelled accessories. From custom bike builders to an on-site tattoo artist, The Roadhouse contains its own community within the festival that’s always ready to welcome you in.
Everyone knows Sunday morning’s are sacred. Particularly when they’re paired with a world-class gospel choir and some syrup-soaked waffles. Kicking off proceedings in the Live Fire tent on the festival’s final morning, set yourself up for the day with a hearty breakfast and some even heartier vocals.
A truly unique experience that represents Black Deer’s real passion for the music and those that make it, the Songwriter Sessions invites a few artists from the line up on-stage to give a deep, intimate dive into their songs, with stripped-back performances of a select few. This year’s artists include: Bella White, Damian Lewis and Amythyst Kiah.
Navigating labyrinthian festival layouts and constant crowds often puts a downer on the musical experience. But, thanks to Black Deer’s seemingly open plan set up, everything is easy to find and quick to get to, so be sure to take plenty of time to chill out and soak up what’s going on around you.
It wouldn’t be a celebration of Americana without a last-person-standing chilli pepper eating competition. Hosted by the Clifton Chilli Club on both Saturday and Sunday, head to the Live Fire tent to watch things seriously heat up. For the less spice-inclined, there’s also a hot dog eating competition too.
This year’s stellar line-up is showcasing some of country’s rising stars, as well as some not-so-new names. Actor Damian Lewis is changing lanes and bringing his signature husky voice to a different kind of stage. The Homeland star is set to perform on Friday, the day of his debut album release.
The festival site lies nestled in the heart of leafy, verdant parkland surrounded by greenery from every angle – a self-contained sanctuary that feels a world away from normal life. The view as you head over the hill and down to the site provides a very special start to the weekend.
The high-roofed, darkened tent lends a certain intimacy to this venue, despite it being the festival’s second largest stage, creating a memorable and somewhat stirring atmosphere. Whether it's watching the Songwriter Sessions, or listening to the captivating harmonies of folk trio Bonny Light Horseman, don’t miss this stage.
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