Americana In The UK: The Scene @ Black Deer Festival 2022
By / June 24, 2022

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Welcome back to our coverage of the UK festival scene! We kick things off this summer with a stop at a newer fest just south of London. Founded in 2018, the Black Deer Festival survived two pandemic cancellations and returned stronger than ever for their third edition this summer. This intimate fest dedicated to all things Americana and country is a welcome alternative to the larger gatherings across England with highlights including a gorgeous campground and a relaxed vibe. 


Table Of Contents

1. Running the Numbers
2. The Scene
3. Music Highlights

4. Stray Observations
5. Travel Tips
6. Final Thoughts

Running the Numbers

Dates: June 17-19, 2022
Editions: 3
Attendance: 10,000
Artists: 100+
MFW Beer Index: €7.23
Highest/Lowest Temperature: 31C/10C (88F/50F)
Reusable Cups? Yes
Free Water Stations? Yes

The Scene

The Venue
The home of Black Deer Festival is Eridge Park, an absolutely gorgeous estate in Royal Tunbridge Wells south of London. Picture rolling green hills, blankets of soft grass, and majestic shade oaks. Black Deer is a wonderfully walkable festival – it took me only three minutes to get from my tent to the main stage. The other main stage was The Ridge, a large tent perfect for the UK’s famously fickle weather.

The Music
Black Deer calls itself a festival of Americana and country and they are more than happy to dip into all the facets of what that might entail – think pop country, folk rock, even a dose of metal. While the bulk of the more well-known names happened at the main stage and The Ridge, plenty of other musical offerings could be found from the rock-centric Roadhouse, the even rowdier Haley’s Bar, and the buzzy SupaJam tent. As the live music came to an end near midnight, the smaller tent stages transformed into late night dance parties.

The Crowd
Like a lot of smaller UK festivals, the crowd here is a mix with everything from families camping over the weekend to hipsters from London day-tripping down to catch a few headliners. The entire vibe is best described as relaxed chill, the sort of place where you can throw a blanket on the ground and people won’t trip all over it while you become fast friends with your neighbor. Even a shouting match on the shuttle over the relative {insert popular English slur here} of Van Morrison evolved into a congenial discussion over the state of music and politics.

The Camping Experience
It’s been three years since I’ve set up a tent at the festival grounds so for me the camping was a highlight. The campground is set mostly on the side of the hill with so much space you could choose to camp completely alone or clustered up under the shade of the massive oak trees that dot the landscape. This also has to be, without a doubt, the cleanest camping I’ve ever seen in England. The photo below was taken on the morning of the third day and the respect towards the estate continued across the campground. The one major issue we had was that there was no water on the second day for showers – I tried to keep my distance from fellow festies until the situation was resolved.

Music Highlights

Acts I Caught and the Unofficial Order in Which I Enjoyed Them

See the Black Deer photo gallery for pictures of everyone listed below.

  • Wilco
  • Shovels & Rope
  • Drive-By Truckers
  • Hiss Golden Messenger
  • James
  • Noble Jacks
  • Imelda May
  • Darlingside
  • The Felice Brothers
  • The Dead South
  • The London African Gospel Choir
  • Irish Mythen
  • Ward Thomas
  • Courtney Marie Andrews
  • The Waterboys

It’s Been A Minute: Wilco
I last saw Wilco in 2009 at the 2nd festival I ever covered for Music Festival Wizard, so it was a real treat to see them thirteen years later at my 107th festival. An all around solid set from a reliable headliner ended Saturday on a high note.

Most Interactive: James
So for the last 15 minutes, it was all about the crowd, dancing, and tambourines at James. A great closer to a Friday night, even if they did give some grief to the photographers.

Festival MVP: Shovels & Rope
One of my favorites of the festival, getting up close and personal to watch this husband and wife duo from South Carolina knock out some tunes in the The Ridge was an epic way to kick off the weekend. I had no doubt that Shovels & Rope would give good festival – they curate their own fest back home in the US.

Stray Observations

Most Comedic: Irish Mythen
With a completely stripped down stage, Irish Mythen’s act was a mellow mix of Irish folk and stand-up comedy. She even made sure that I got a shot of her sipping water from a festival-sponsored YETI bottle.

Banjo Tricks
I’m not sure who this dude is (it is Willi Carlisle), but this guy can spin a banjo.

Ax Throwing
Alcohol and axes. I do feel like I’m back in America.

The Slow and The Happy
A nice touch of the Americana vibe were the vintage cars placed around the grounds.

Practical Info

What’s the weather like? It’s a typical UK summer so prepare for humid heat, blistering thunderstorms, and cool weather (I was lucky enough to catch all of this in three days). Speaking of thunderstorms, they actually had to cut the music early on Saturday night and close the grounds as we were bombarded with the mother of all lightning storms.

What’s the prime hours for music? After the all-nighters in Spain, it’s nice to be back on a normal time-table. Music at Black Deer begins around noon with headliners wrapping around 10:30-11:00 pm. Late-night parties continue to about 2:00 am.

Where did you sleep? I camped for two nights in the heat, rain, and cold. I would have stayed for the third, but as a music festival expert I felt compelled to review the lodging options in the nearby town where I found a beautiful spot at The Tunbridge Wells Hotel (with a shower) for under $100/night.

How do you get there? It’s very easy to reach this festival from London with trains from London Bridge to Tunbridge Wells (about $10-$20 USD for a one way trip). From there, Black Deer has a shuttle from the train station to the festival grounds ($6 USD RT/20 minutes).

Final Thoughts

Black Deer’s aim of bringing a bit of country to the UK countryside hits on all marks. The lineup is eclectic enough that most music fans will have an enjoyable weekend and the outstanding campgrounds are worth the ticket price. Like most festivals returning after the forced hiatus, there were some minor logistical issues, but overall a top-notch festival that I’m excited to recommend. Black Deer Festival will be back from June 16-18, 2023.

Born during a backstage Bonnaroo downpour, Vito's mission in life is to dance, write, and travel to all the great festivals that this wide world has to offer.