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Tunbridge Wells: Black Deer Festival brings Americana to Eridge Park

By Angela Cole

It may be the heart of the Kent countryside, but Americana is coming to Eridge Park. More than 70 acts over six stages, all showcasing sounds from Americana, blues, roots, authentic country, folk and bluegrass genres will be at the park for this weekend's Black Deer Festival alongside authentic Americana-style meats, smokey whiskeys, bespoke custom motorcycle showcases and rooted storytelling.

The festival will feature stars from film star actor Kiefer Sutherland and his band, Ashley Campbell, the daughter of country great Glenn Campbell and stars including Iron & Wine, Passenger, Ward Thomas and double Grammy and AMA UK award winner Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit in a UK festival exclusive.

Ashley Campbell, daughter of country star Glen Campbell
Ashley Campbell, daughter of country star Glen Campbell

Star of films including The Lost Boys and Flatliners and the TV show 24, Kiefer Sutherland will be bringing his band and music to the event. Movie star Kiefer's journey in the music industry started after a collaboration with a friend ended in the release of his 2016 album Down In A Hole.

The album tracks come from his personal experiences and he has described them as “the closest thing I’ve ever had to a journal or diary.”

Ashley Campbell, whose country legend father Glen died last year, will be bringing her banjo when she plays at the festival, fresh from the release of her first album The Lonely One.

She said: "I’ve co-written one of the songs on it with one of my brothers and the whole album I co-produced with my other brother, so it’s been a bit of a family affair – I love working with my brothers. And of course just watching my dad was like a master-class, he was just such a natural on stage."

She said: "I’m so excited about Black Deer, it’s going to be amazing. I’ll be playing most of the songs from my album and probably some covers too. It’s gonna be a whole lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to meeting some of the fans too.

Ashley, who is no stranger to the county as she has a good friend who lives in Canterbury, added: "It’s gorgeous. I love it there. When I came last time we hang out in the Old Butter Market pub and my friend took me to the Chocolate Café there. It’s such a historical and beautiful city."

Eridge Park will be the setting for Black Deer Festival
Eridge Park will be the setting for Black Deer Festival


There's plenty of local acts on offer at the festival.

Folk-Americana band The Wandering Hearts' story is one many bands dream of: they were discovered 26 minutes after uploading their first demo to Soundcloud.

The four-piece, who include Francesca "Chess" Whiffin from Cranbrook, are signed to Decca and are proclaimed by many as the next big thing. Their album Wild Silence won the Bob Harris Emerging Artist Award at the UK Americana Awards - handpicked by Bob Harris himself.

Organisers also held a competition for local acts, which attracted more than 150 entries. Winners included Tunbridge Wells singer-songwriter Paul Dunton and his crossover orchestra and Kent-based three-piece Lt Leek.

Pembury-born Sam Palladio, who played Gunnar Scott in the TV series Nashville, will be playing at the festival.

Sam, who has family and friends in Tunbridge Wells, said: "It’ll be great to see some familiar faces in the crowd. It’s my first full band summer festival in the UK – what a great one to be involved in, an incredible line-up.

"I hear there are lots of deer at Eridge Park - I just hope they’re fans of Americana! I’m really looking forward to performing there, especially with the fantastic line-up, some great names like Passenger who I’ve performed with before - I love his stuff. What’s great is that because of spending time in Nashville, I see a lot of those playing Black Deer around town and we often collaborate, so expect some on stage in Kent."

He added of finishing the show Nashville: "The final scenes were very emotional. I was given the chance to write a song for one of my final performances which was fantastic as a songwriter – I’m thrilled to be performing this in Kent. Nashville is very country music and people may see me in that world, but my sound is more edgy and modern."

Sam Palladio will be at Black Deer Festival
Sam Palladio will be at Black Deer Festival

The Webb Sisters - Charley and Hattie - who grew up in Sevenoaks, come to the festival fresh from joining the late Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers band for their final world tour last year. Born into a family of musicians the pair are multi-instrumentalists and songwriters, with Charley often playing guitar and Hattie harp arrangements, with the pair both singing.

They have recorded three albums, and have achieved album, single and record of the week on iTunes and BBC Radio Two.

The pair, who hope to catch Iron & Wine's set at the event, now live about 10 minutes' walk away from eachother in London. Charley said of joining the line-up: "We are very excited to be part of Black Deer. It is very much that world we enjoy and also to be back on our home turf.

"We absolutely jumped at it. To be involved in an Americana event is very much our music inspiration and roots. At Black Deer we will be playing some of our material and new songs... and also some surprises. It's also brilliant to be back in Kent at the height of the summer in a place like that. Although even if the weather isn't great and we need our wellies, the good old Brits will make the most of it and have a wonderful time, regardless of the weather."

The Webb Sisters Picture: Jake Morley
The Webb Sisters Picture: Jake Morley


Black Deer Festival at Eridge Park near Tunbridge Wells from Friday, June 22 to Sunday, June 24. To book tickets visit blackdeerfestival.com

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