Black Deer Festival more than doubled its audience numbers this year, with over 10,000 people enjoying a weekend of fun and music at its second edition in Kent’s picturesque Eridge Park – Americana style.


Black Deer returned bigger and better (19-21 June), with charismatic founders Gill Tee and Deb Shilling having ‘lived the festival’ since its award winning debut, searching out new content and developing the site to build on its success.

The line-up across seven stages varied from Band of Horses, The Shires, Hayseed Dixie and Kris Kristofferson to the Roadhouse heavy blues stage and Supajam Stage showcasing up and coming artists.

Access enjoyed its first visit, feeling compelled to check it out after ample social media hype and rave reviews. Tee told Access: “Feedback tells us our audience realised how much care and attention to detail we’ve put in to the site, curating the content and creating a Black Deer community. It’s what we love and that makes it authentic. We wanted our attendees and artists to feel like they’ve walked into a big festival hug.

“They had given the site a make-over, moving expanded camping areas, extending the high-end camping offer and kids activity zone – even adding interactive attractions that included axe throwing!”.

Possibly their boldest move was to take the festival fully cashless, with operations director Chris Russell-Fish managing the process. He explains:

“We have liaised extensively with PlayPass’s project manager Ben Wild-Hirons in the months running up to and during the festival. He’s been a great support and I’ve been very impressed with PlayPass and how well going cashless has worked.

“It was a huge step for the festival board, the traders and our audience to go cashless, so I have co-ordinated the process and communications with all of the stakeholders. Traders were particularly nervous so there were many conversations around that and we had to educate and reassure our audience about the system, including encouraging them to top up their digital wallets in advance of getting on site.

“It was a lot of work but I’m delighted to say that it’s been worth it and has worked brilliantly. We’ve had no queues, the system has been easy to use, far better and more secure than dealing with cash and our spend per head has been significantly higher than last year. We’ve had great feedback from the audience, traders and bar managers and I’m sure we’ll look to enhance it further next year.”

PlayPass supplied all of the RFID wristbands, portable NFC readers, with Wild-Hirons managing a team of ten throughout the weekend. This included staffing wristband exchange at top-up stations, familiarising staff and the public with the system and ensuring traders hand-held NFC readers had charged batteries.