Black Deer Festival 2023

Festivals are a huge part of British culture. There’s no doubt about that! Blighty gives us no shortage of options for us to lose ourselves in a field for a while.

We all know this is usually accompanied by rain, but what would Britain be without a few showers rudely interrupting a scorching summers’ day…This year, my festival of choice was Black Deer Festival. 

This was held in the beautiful Eridge Park in Tunbridge Wells. Rockabilly, Folk, Blues. It truly is a unique experience and there’s an artist to suit everyone’s taste. Many of the attendees really got into the spirit of the festival with their choice of outfit – cowboy boots, denims, and a stetsons galore. This really helped get you into the mood to have a proper hoedown! It was a perfect fit for the festival aesthetic.As well as this, the organisers had provided vintage American cars and trucks for photo opportunities. 



If you were feeling run down after a heavy Saturday, The Powerhouse Gospel Choir kick-started the Sunday, which was perfect and much loved by the audience. I have been to many festivals in the past, but I would say this is the most wholesome festival I have ever attended. Everyone was so friendly and glad to meet a few new people. Some people I spoke to even attended the event alone, knowing from previous years how easy it was to make new friends there.

Everybody seemed to leave their stresses at home, simply having the same agenda to enjoy the music in the sun. Black Deer is a perfect fit for all. Friends, couples, and even families with small children.

Families would be glad to hear that kids are well catered for, with designated areas for the little ones to enjoy themselves. Activities ranged from tree climbing with The Great Big Tree Climbing Company to juggling and spinning plates with Matt Bernards Circus Training. If you wanted a break from the great music on offer, there was plenty to keep the adults entertained. Axe throwing, a mechanical bucking bull, chilli and hotdog eating competitions and live cooking shows!



Of course, the music was the main attraction at Black Deer. 

What a line-up we were offered for 2023, with artists such as The Pretenders, Bonnie Raitt, Lukas Nelson and POTR, Patty Griffin, Joanna Shaw Taylor, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Richard Hawley, Damien Lewis, Bear’s Den, Sleepwalking Animals, The Teskey Brothers, Willie Carlisle, Midlake and Cardinal Black. 

This is just to name a few!

The organizers did not hold out on their line-up, they had quantity and variety. 

There were often two or three artists performing at the same time on different stages, which made it hard to decide whom to go and watch on quite a few occasions. But they’re certainly worse problems to have!



For me, the stand-out performances were not the headliners, but instead the performers on the smaller accompanying stages. 

The Sleep Walking Animals, they had such a great stage presence, their energy had people up on their feet dancing along with them, lifting spirits all around. They definitely have a strong fan base and gained a bunch of new fans based on the audience’s thunderous applause.

The Swamp Stomp String Band were another stand out. Once again, another band that brought tremendous energy to the stage.  It was a musical performance you don’t get the chance to see every day. They really embodied what the festival and music was all about. I would like to see them return in the future. 

Another performance that was particularly enjoyed was by The Vanguards, this bluegrass band was one of the unique and enjoyable performances from the weekend. Once again, these young folk music artists take the audience from Tunbridge Wells to the Deep South. I would say that a larger stage is needed for this band as the smaller stages can get rather busy, and you have to be quite close to the front to fully enjoy what the artists have to offer.

And finally, my last stand out performance was Willie Carlisle. He has the look, he has the voice, he can play a musical instrument, he’s the complete package. I very much enjoyed watching his performance.  He’d be a cowboy’s perfect companion, signing around the campfire! 



Black Deer truly gave Britain the chance to appreciate and celebrate country music of all types the best way we know how – on a live stage, surrounded by friends and family, in a field… at one of our beloved Festivals. 

I, for one, cannot wait to return !

Black Deer Festival will be returning to Eldridge Park for 2024. Tickets available now – Black Deer Festival 


Words by Chantelle Phillips 

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