Deer Shed Festival 8 review: what we learned and five of the best acts

Image courtesy of Deer Shed Festival 8

Deer Shed Festival 8

Family friendly attractions and critically acclaimed musicians graced the stages of Deer Shed Festival 8 last weekend as Getintothis’ Janaya Pickett & Co entered the Wilderwild for a magical experience.

I attended my first music festival at the tender age of seventeen. It was Leeds Festival 2001, I’d paid the 70 odd quid for a ticket, packed the bare minimum and set off with a hope and a prayer.

I had no idea what I was letting myself in for and was, as far as camping goes, thoroughly unprepared – but that didn’t matter at seventeen.

As cheesy as it sounds, there was a real sense of ‘coming home’. I laughed, I danced and pushed my body to its consumption limits. I basked in the freedom of the people around me who adopted habits, ways and clothing savoured for that one special weekend. It began a love affair with music festivals that continues to this day.

But I’m not seventeen anymore. I’m not even in my twenties. Cut to 2017 and I’m now a fully grown woman with two little women of my own. Like a festival, motherhood in some ways is a feat of human endurance and a real emotional trip. There’s sleep deprivation, insanity and the tackling of human waste – alongside those mind altering moments that make it all worth while but that is where the similarities end. The festival experience pre-babies is about self-indulgence whereas parenting in general is a lesson in selflessness.

Like many a festival reveler though, I was not prepared to give up my love of live music once my children came along in fact I wanted to pass it on. When you boil it down the music festival appeals to the child in all of us: camping out, staying up late, the raw sensory experience of it all and family friendly festivals have grown enormously over the last decade.

Now, mainstream events such as Glastonbury, Latitude and Festival No 6 among others cater for young and old.

As part of the Getintothis team we were this year invited to Deer Shed Festival, now in its eighth year. Deer Shed is not just family friendly but family specific with 90% of the camping space devoted to families (i.e relative quiet after 11pm).

If getting twisted is part of your festival gig then Deer Shed is really not for you. But if you’re serious about your tunes then I wouldn’t write it off.  The line up looked very promising, showcasing familiar names such as Teenage Fanclub, Arab Strap, Kate Tempest and The Divine Comedy, as well as new darlings like GIT Award winners She Drew the GunHooton Tennis Club and Cabbage.

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The lay of the land at a festival can put real strain on relationships. At one particular festival in Dorset we noted that not only the seven hour drive but the hellish terrain had even the most idyllic looking families at one another’s throats. How happy we were then to find Deer Shed’s car park a mere 300 meters away from the camp site with no sharp hills to climb, although it wouldn’t be a family festival without kids losing their shit and pointed tones between Mum and Dad setting up the tent.

We easily found a perfect spot on top of a hill and it was all very picturesque, as a festival should be. As we set up we could hear Eat Fast, their fuzzy garage rock/pop fantasy floating across the breeze which peaked our eagerness to get to a stage. That’s the beauty of festivals, you go where your ears take you but of course at family festival where your kids take you too.

We eventually got down to the In the Dock stage to witness Let’s Eat Grandma, a band that I’d heard of but am ashamed to say had written off. In fact I must eat my words. The multi instrumental duo had the tent packed and utterly gripped.

I’d been flicking through the festival programme while we set up and the introduction kind of manifested itself in watching LEG, it said “there is a group of people who are young, open-minded, inclusive, creative and they are the bright brilliant future of the UK. They are everywhere, perhaps some live in your house…”. It goes on to emphasise the importance of supporting and nurturing younger generations in a Whitney Houston fashion. They are the future though, aren’t they? Teach them well and let them lead the way.

I suppose as of a Mum of two girls seeing two young women take such control of their own vision was very inspiring and a great way to start the weekend. LEG‘s talent was absolutely indisputable and they finished to rapturous applause.

We settled down later near the Main stage for ice cream and Honeyblood who played their bombastic set with confidence and ease. Later we eat more food and watched on as headliners Teenage Fanclub whipped the crowd into a frenzy (Dad dancing all over the place). The atmosphere was electric, infectious even and the crowd called out for more.

On our way back to the tent we stumbled upon Spike and Sponge Rave and threw some shapes to a superb dance mix with a little slice of garage. Happy days. Both big kids and little ones buzzed after hours, glow sticked and glitttered up to the nines.

But all was not as it seemed. As we cosied into our sleeping bags on Friday night the rain began and continued pretty solidly until Saturday lunchtime. If you’ve done a British festival before however you should know to prepare for rain and if you are prepared then it doesn’t have to ruin your weekend.The children didn’t seem fussed anyhow, skidding and squelching in mud, rolling down hills and climbing over hay bails. It’s quite humbling to see them, blissfully happy with the simple things in life like a bit of green space to explore.

Image Courtesy of Deer Shed Festival 8

Deer Shed Festival 8

Speaking of which, the array of activities and workshops for young ones at Deer Shed is quite astonishing. In fact quality programming for kids is as important as securing quality music acts and we couldn’t have possibly done it all. We did enjoy the Wilderwild on Saturday morning, an enchantingly decorated section of woodland that offered den building, fairy door painting and other bush crafts. There was the ancient tinkering of a blacksmith giving demonstrations and selling his wares.

The Science Tent at Deer Shed is now quite legendary and offered a wide range from a wreck shop, to VR, slime making, water bottle rockets and varying demonstrations on all things science and tech. When we arrived it was awash with now humid waterproofed bodies so we didn’t stay as there was plenty more to do.

Instead we opted for Goat Girl but on arrival discovered that they’d had to cancel and Happyness had stepped in. This turned out well and we were lulled by the warm psychedelic chords emanating from the stage.

One welcome aspect of Deer Shed was the strong female presence on the line-up. In fact the whole thing felt a little matriarchal – all those Mums. The first two acts we stumbled across for example were female bands and on Saturday the Main stage was dominated by female musicians including Nilufer Yanya, The Big Moon, She Drew the Gun, Ibibio Sound Machine and of course headliner Kate Tempest.

Tempest was possibly the most anticipated name on the Deer Shed 8 bill and her politicism was echoed throughout the weekend’s programming. Bands consistently promoted change or peace or both and on offer was a talk from activist and journalist Owen Jones who spoke of the need for social change in Britain.

There was Kate Pankhurst, descendant of Emeline Pankhurst, on her illustrated book of historical heroines for children and even a chance to discuss the Sunday morning papers with comedian Kate Fox and accompanying panel.

Counter-cultural feeling was very much part of Deer Shed’s ethos but in reality family festivals are quite renowned for being, well, a bit middle class. They attract a new breed of festival goer who take their sloe gin cocktails and vegetarian street food as seriously as their music.

At one point we heard a girl ask her Dad if they were having elevenses and a woman being reassured at a porridge stand that there was indeed nothing in the porridge but rolled oats and quinoa.

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That being said, at family festivals like Deer Shed you’re not worried about your stuff being nicked or your little angels encountering ravers on a cocktail of chemicals. The festival was big enough to give you that village vibe but not so huge that you’re worried your kids will get lost in the crowd. There’s plenty of space for hula hooping and bubble blowing and all those very important things.

As if by some cosmic force, the heavens opened as Kate Tempest took to the stage. As if to rain reality on to the pleasantries of elevenses and quinoa Tempest, relentless as ever, told her tales of corruption and social dysfunction.

The rain was relentless also and this is where that parenting thing happens. Only four songs into Kate Tempest‘s set and with no sign of the rain abating we retreated to the comfort of hot chocolate in the tent – trying in vein to listen from afar as rain battered down on it. The key to a festival with your family is accepting that you won’t see everything (that’s impossible at most festivals even without kids) and if you’re OK to just go with that then you’ll have a good time. Often the golden moments are found in just being together, with no work, school or phone signal.

By Sunday morning it was dry (but muddy) again and the line up on this last day was a bit different. The headliner finished at 5.30pm with the camp site closing at 8pm which meant that most of the morning was concentrated on packing. We did later enjoy an acoustic set from Manchester based Afro band Agbeko on the small Pallet Stage. Then it was off to queue for forty minutes for a weekend-long promised ride on the Ferris Wheel….

The Divine Comedy were the closing headliner, with composer Neil Hannon dressed ceremoniously in a Napoleonic outfit. The set list featured many tracks from their most recent album, Foreverland, and after an instrumental interlude by the band of New Order‘s Blue Monday, Hannon returned dressed in black suit and bowler hat – topping the look off with an umbrella. He sang the hits and ended with National Express to a very grateful audience.

Although the live music and main attractions at Deer Shed finished on Sunday there was the option to camp untill the next day to enjoy Andy Kershaw’s Global Dance Party and as tempting as it sounded we were all quite ready for a real bed and a bath. Yet Deer Shed had been everything we’d hoped for.

The whole event was so meticulously thought out and reflected in the ease with which people adopted the Deer Shed village mentality for those short but long three days. The quality of the setting and the chosen line up make Deer Shed stand out as a festival in its own right and proved it’s reputation of one of the best family festivals in the UK today. We highly recommend it.

Kate Tempest

Kate Tempest

Our five favourite acts from the weekend (in particular order):

Flamingods – Thoroughly enjoyable pysch, added to the line up at the last minute.

Happyness – Dreamy unpredictable tunes enjoyed on Saturday afternoon.

Kate Tempest – One of those festival moments where weather and words collide to leave a lasting impression.

Let’s Eat Grandma – An empowering first act to witness at Deer Shed 8.

Ibibio Sound Machine – The natural high of the weekend, where the sun shone and audience were truly captured by ISM’s afro-fusion.