As with many events, the 2020 Black Deer festival scheduled for June that year was cancelled due to the pandemic, but organisers of the event received a cruel blow the following year when the festival had to be scrapped at the last minute as the lifting of restrictions were delayed.
The eleventh-hour cancellation saw event organisers Gill Tee and Deborah Shilling take a ‘massive’ financial hit, but the pair hope the return of the festival this month will be successful enough to secure its future.
“It is almost like it is not real that it is finally going to happen,” Deborah tells the Times. “This has been a very long time coming. I can’t explain how difficult this journey has been.”
The event started in 2018 to much acclaim, even winning Music Event of the Year and Best New Festival at leading industry awards, but after it was pulled at the eleventh-hour last year while the production team was setting up the stage, Deborah says she had thought their dream of bringing Americana music and culture to the Kent and East Sussex border was over.
“There were so many, many moments when we thought that it was over. It has been an absolute roller-coaster. We haven’t had any assistance from the government schemes.
“So as an independent festival we have relied solely on our investors who have stood by us, and we are so lucky they stuck with us.”
Co-founder Gill Tee adds that it has only been possible to plan the return of Black Deer due to the sheer volume of local help.
“We have had so much support ,” she says. “People want this festival because it is so different. It stands out from other ones.
“Last year we were building the festival when it was taken away from us at the last minute only to see sporting events taking place the next day.
“It was beyond cruel. We did everything possible to make it safe and spent a lot of money on that and we took the gamble, but had we not seen what happened when virtually the next day sporting events took place that was heart-breaking for all our team.”
The pair say after such a torrid time over the last two years, a lot hinges on the success of Black Deer 2022
“It is absolutely crucial that it is a success this year and the effort that has gone into it has been to ensure that success,” says Deborah.
“We’ve cut no corners with all the incredible venues and stages and amazing content.
“Ticket sales have been great. We’re really lucky that people who bought in 2020 and 2021 held onto their tickets. There was a huge retention rate of people doing that.”
Gill says they hope to see 20,000 people come to the festival over the long weekend from June 17-19, and the pair have organised some top acts to entertain people.
“If you look at our line-up there are more British acts that we normally would have had,” admits Deborah. “But we have a great complement of artists. There are some absolutely amazing acts from the States, Ireland and the UK and we’re really pleased with this line-up.
“It’s the best ever. We have James on Friday so the party will be incredible.”
“Our booker Bev Burton has done an amazing job as there has been three rollovers so to come up with this line-up is just fab,” adds Gill. “We are in this beautiful private estate. Even though it will be busy it won’t feel like you are caught up in mass of people. There are areas for family and for children to run around and that is the beauty.”
Tickets for Black Deer 2022 are on sale at blackdeerfestival.com but people can also pay at the door.