Last weekend, around 20,000 revellers should have been enjoying Americana music festival Black Deer in Eridge Park – between Tunbridge Wells and Crowborough.
But the event was cancelled at the eleventh hour when PM Boris Johnson delayed the June 21 final stage of lockdown reopening.
As reported in the Times last week [June 23], the delay meant Black Deer had to be cancelled for the second year in a row, resulting in a ‘massive’ financial hit for organisers.
Nusrat Ghani, Conservative MP for Wealden, says the cancellation of the festival was ‘despite the event being Covid-safe with test and trace in place and premises large enough to host quadruple the amount of ticket holders’.
She said she had been working tirelessly to salvage the event, co-operating closely with Gill Tee, the co-founder and director of Black Deer and Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark, making countless representations to the Government and Arts Council England.
Both Ms Ghani and Mr Clark voted for the delay to the easing of restrictions when it came before the Commons on June 16. It has meant other than pilot initiatives, outdoor events were restricted to 4,000 attendees.
However, last week in Parliament, the member for Wealden criticised the Government’s restrictions as being ‘two tier’, with sporting events allowed to go ahead with much larger numbers while festivals like Black Deer are not.
Speaking after the Parliamentary debate, Ms Ghani said: “I raised my concerns over the two-tier system for outdoor events and why Ministers can produce data for sporting events being given the go-ahead while other outdoor Covid-safe events such as Black Deer Festival are being cancelled.
“The event was ready to go with robust measures in place to be Covid-safe and yet it had to cancel last-minute.
“I’m beyond devastated for Gill, the co-founder and director of Black Deer, and the hundreds of organisers, performers and suppliers involved in the planning for this fantastic Covid-safe outdoor event – now postponed until 2022.
“We are extremely lucky to have this unique music festival at our doorstep and I’m dreading the impact the multiple postponements have had on many livelihoods and the local economy.
“I will continue to do all I can to support the Black Deer event management team through this difficult time.”
Black Deer Photo: © Georgina Edwards Photography