And so we made it our destination for this trip, the Black Deer Festival outside Tunbridge Wells. However, before we got to the site, we stopped off on the south coast in Aldwick, west of Bognor Regis, for lunch and a stroll along the beach. Then we set off along the south coast, heading east towards Tunbridge Wells and the festival site as we had bought tickets to enable us to pitch up a day early so that when it all kicks off on Friday mid-day, we will be ‘hot to trot’!
On arriving at the site, we were guided to a field where we were parked at a great spot equidistant between the toilets and the arena entrance! Once we had set Iona up, we relaxed in the late afternoon sunshine and chatted with a few of our new neighbours, and the festival mood began to settle over everyone.
Friday started with blazing sun, a perfect blue sky and the temperature soon knocking on 26 deg C; what a start to the festival. We decided to walk around the arena to get our bearings and then return to Iona to get our festival chairs, water, rucksack, etc. However, as the terrain en route to the festival was often uneven, Nadia did not want to repeat the forty-minute round trip walk to the arena. Therefore, after we had done a site tour, I returned, leaving Nadia at one of the bars, and I schlepped it back to the van to collect our stuff. In the noon heat, I must confess I felt the return trip quite arduous, but I was soon back in the arena, and we were ready to dive into the festival.
Over the next ten hours or so, we clocked up some 14,120 steps and took in half a dozen bands, of which the highlight for me was Brennen Leigh. No wonder we “slept the sleep of the just” on Friday night!
Saturday started with light rain; however, it soon turned out just as Friday did, and we had a relaxing start to the day culminating in bacon and eggs for lunch alfresco before we headed back to the arena for round 2. We managed to see another six or seven bands, the highlight being a tie between Stephen Wilson Jr and Robert Vincent (whom we only caught because we happened to get chatting with his promotor, who naturally recommended him to us!). Day two saw us clocking up some 10,000 steps; the decrease was because we had found the Haley Stage, which perfectly catered to our musical tastes!
And so, the final day, Sunday, arrived, and we woke to a heavy cloud-laden sky promising rain during the day, and so it turned out. The rain began at about 14:00 and lasted, on and off, until about 22:00, and at times was very heavy. However, despite the weather and spending most of the day in the Haley Stage, our step count came in at 9,230. Along the way, we saw another seven bands, with Liam Cromby as a standout. So at 21:00, we ‘pulled the chute’ and headed back to Iona to relax and get a good night’s sleep in readiness for the slog that leaving the festival site by 11:00 in the morning will inevitably be!
Reviewing our first visit to the Black Deer Festival, there were highs and lows. The highs were encountering new artists and the young, enthusiastic staff; on the other hand, the lows included the fact that one could hear the main stage in many different venues and was commented on by several minor acts, and to our minds, the definition of ‘Americana’ was stretched a tad too far. However, perhaps the biggest disappointment was that all the ‘official’ outlets only accepted ‘contactless payment’, a slippery slope indeed! In addition, one oddity was that the only beer brand available at this festival, some 25 miles from the south coast of England, was Brewdog, a Scottish brewer! However, on a positive final note, we saw some 20 or so bands, walked about 30,000 steps and enjoyed the company of several fellow festival goers!