Deer Shed Festival 7
Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire, July 22 to 24 2016
With fantastic sci-fi b-movie posters and a list of family-friendly events longer than an octopus’ tentacles, Deer Shed Festival 7 had a lot of hype to live up to.
Arriving later than planned, it was clear that everyone else had bunked off work early to get the best pitch. Carting all our weekend requirements the considerable distance from the car park to the camping field didn’t get things off to the most relaxing start.
But pitched, fed and watered this early hiccup was soon behind us as we meandered to the main stage to catch Friday headliners Everything Everything. An indie rock band from almost all four corners of British Isles they were led by a monastically-clad and passionate Jonathan Higgs.
It was an heroic performance, with influences from U2, Alphaville (Big In Japan) and Babybird and a real sense of elevation. They created probably the most enthusiastic audience of the weekend and a great way to start the festival.
Finding ways to keep a ten-year-old happy without sending our fourteen-year-old off into a sulk is usually nigh on impossible. But not at the Deer Shed.
A walk round the grounds on Saturday revealed a simply enormous number of was to entertain the next generation. An impressive amount of it was at no additional cost and those activities that were, tended to be cheap – £1 or £2.
Den building, a whole field of swingballs, football, tennis, bmx biking, scooters, skateboarding and a cinema were all included.
Possibly the best use ever of Harrogate Spring Water was the ‘build your own rocket’ area in the science tent. Blue Peter style gaffer tape, cardboard and a plastic bottle were launched into orbit by pressurising Harrogate’s finest and the pulling the plug.
Programming the Raspberry Pii, bridge-building and music making were further creative outlets in the tent.
Our children’s favourite, however, was the destruction derby area. Here they could tear apart, unscrew or drill old stereos, computers and sewing machines.
Worryingly life-like Walking Dead or Casualty-style wounds and scars were available from Leeds City College Media Media Make Up & Theatrical Special Effects students.
Aardman Animations had workshops led by one of their model-makers. Here kids of all ages (including dad-age) could create a character from the Wallace & Gromit films.
After energy-sapping destruction in the Science Tent, we set off in search of sustenance. Deer Shed had a wide variety of flavours from all over the World but we played boringly safe with chile, curry and pizza. All excellent and not unreasonably priced either.
Our second day afternoon music tour started at the main stage and Misty Miller. This tuneful grunge-pop act from London had just the right balance of angst and melody to make it memorable. Not too angry for a Saturday afternoon but catchy enough to engage the crowd sat out on the hillside.
On the Lodge Stage Meilyr Jones had a mesmerising voice, not dissimilar Nick Cave. The tracks were theatrical and playful with unexpected tempo changes and strings alternating between pity and tension.
This was a real stand-out act, one which drew the audience in with anticipation and kept them wanting more.
Back in the Dock, Mercury-nominate Anna Calvi‘s intense rhythm and smooth deep vocals wrapped the audience in a rock-trance aura.
Anna’s presence onstage was commanding as she used ‘out-of-control’ guitar to needle the audience from outside their aura.
Saturday headliner Richard Hawley gave a big sound finish to the second day. A clearly enthusiastic crowd joined in with the ex-Pulp musician and his soulful retro rock.
Sunday lined-up more fun for the kids. One word of advice for Deer Shed newbies though – book your activities early. Our children managed to do everything they wanted, but because we booked late, it was all jammed together on the Sunday.
A slower pace for our second day, the Buffalo Skinners packed the Obelisk stage to the rafters. Festival favourites, they always deliver a perfect blend of catchy folk-rock with a generous side-serving of country and western.
The first real downpour of the weekend slowed to a spit for the main stage weekend-closing set by Beth Orton.
Known for her ‘folktronica‘ sound, the thumping base pushed the audience back. Higher up the hill, her harmonious vocals and folk-guitar and synth backings settled more evenly into the beat.
The final review of the weekend inevitably comes from the kids. Even their teen/pre-teen too-cool-for-skool meh moods couldn’t stop them from smiling, enthusing even, at the events of the weekend.