This weekend will be a landmark for UK country music, as Britain will play host to a brand new outdoor country music festival. The huge event comes in the form of the Black Deer Festival, which will take place in the grounds of one of the UK’s oldest deer parks – Eridge Park.
Here we speak to the festival’s organisers Gill Tee and Debs Shilling to speak further about the upcoming event.
How did the idea for Black Deer Festival come about?
It’s been on our minds for a long time. We’ve managed, produced and overseen many events including large scale parties and festivals and have been part of the music and radio industry for many years. We personally share a love for Americana and Country music, which is at the core of this festival, but the idea itself began after a chat at a party.
How excited are you that Black Deer Festival is so close to becoming a reality?
We are extremely excited. This has been a complete labour of love from the moment we decided to build up Black Deer and everything within it is exactly what we want. We are all about building communities. As a company we have done that for years, and this is what Black Deer is all about. Everyone involved and taking part in the first Black Deer Festival has listened intently. We fully believe they understand and share what we want to achieve. We’re so thankful to have such an amazing line-up of musicians, partners and sponsors who are putting their heart and soul into creating an incredible experience.
Has the boom in British Country played a part in your plans for the festival?
There has always been a bona fide appreciation of Americana & Country in Britain going back to mid-century. As with most music genres, the music is heard, evolved and interpreted in a way that’s unique, but also authentic. Americana embraces many sounds, from Country, Bluegrass, Blues, Folk, etc. and in the UK we have a hoard of talented musicians, so the sound can also be pretty diverse. We haven’t moulded our festival to fit with it or based around British Country, more that we love Country music, the spirit of Nashville and its colourful history.
How are you finding fans’ response to the line-up so far?
It’s been overwhelming. Everyone we have spoken to has been so excited about it. We’ve had such great support from fans, peers, partners – the response is humbling. The line-up has been carefully orchestrated together with our killer queen bee booker Bev Burton and includes some of the top names in the Americana and Country scene; from Iron & Wine, Passenger, homegrown Ward Thomas to Grammy and AMA winning Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit.
What can festivalgoers expect from Black Deer?
Ultimately, a great time. We want everyone to wander in, get themselves set up and see, smell and hear what’s going to be ahead of them – we’re going to bring real Americana & Country music, and its way of life to the UK – authentic roots, Americana, Blues, Folk, Alt-country and Bluegrass over 6 stages, with independent bars, campfire jams and storytelling from the heart.
Are you hoping that Black Deer becomes a major staple of the festival season?
Absolutely. But the first step is to introduce Black Deer this June and make sure everything about it is how we have imagined it to be and that everyone who is part of it goes away happy. The blood, sweat and tears are part of making this a really special event – we can build on that and bring it back even better next year.
Do you feel C2C Festival has helped pave the way for festivals such as Black Deer?
The whole genre of Americana and Country and its way of life, the passion of the people and those that want to be part of it in some way makes Black Deer possible. There are loads of amazing events that help keep the genre alive; C2C, Maverick, Buckles & Boots, South By South West, Red Rooster, Americana Fest… each offer something different, but share a love for the music.
What are your overall aims and dreams for Black Deer?
Ultimately to bring people together and create a community who are looked after, happy, entertained, fed, participate, enjoy the great outdoors, talk to one another, share stories, find common ground and just have a great time.
Interview by: Laura Klonowski
Featured supplied by: Zeitgeist Agency.