All the way back in 2020, we had the pleasure of talking to a couple of the driving points behind the beauty that is Black Deer Festival. Speaking with Co-Founders Gill Tee and Deborah Shilling, we were lucky enough to get some burning questions answered by two experts in the industry.

How do you expect to see events evolve in light of COVID-19? 

I think there will be fewer festivals because some will have not managed to survive the financial crisis.  Festivals are run a little bit on a knife-edge, and sometimes it only has to be blown a little off course and they can fail.  The pandemic has been a hurricane!.  I think going forward, festival organisers will have a greater understanding of what happens when the totally unexpected steps in.  I don’t, however, believe it will stop the spirit that is required to start a festival.  It is almost something that drives you as a person, and you have no control. Passion and determination take over, and you will believe you can achieve your goals.  I think that’s why there will always be new festivals starting up, even though the industry has been very badly affected.

Gill Tee– Co-founder/Festival Director

What do you think of the potentiality of onsite testing?

I think it could be so cost-prohibitive for smaller festivals. You would have to plan for a lot more space to accommodate this.   The additional costs to manage it on-site all has to be taken into consideration.  I think for most smaller festivals it would be a  financial struggle.  It really depends on whether or not there is too much legislation forcing festivals to adopt very stringent measures, which would be costly.

Gill Tee– Co-founder/Festival Director

Black Deer line-up

What does a world look like without festivals?

It is unimaginable now for us to not have festivals to go to.  The camaraderie, the escapism, the shared love of music, the thrill of seeing your favourite artists,  whilst being side by side with your loved ones or great mates,  there is nothing like it.  I think it would be a really dull world without the joy, colour and spectacle of festivals in the UK.

Gill Tee– Co-founder/Festival Director

How do you build long-lasting trust in a festival crowd?

By showing them respect.  By ensuring that every touch point on the journey from buying a ticket to leaving the site at the end of the festival,  is cared about, and thought about.  No one gets it 100 % right, as that is impossible.  However, if you have shown you have done everything you could possibly do, to get most things right, then you will build the trust in your community.

Gill Tee– Co-founder/Festival Director

We all need each other, and as soon as you start to think that you are more important than anyone else on that site, you will lose the magic of what a festival is.

Gill Tee

What’s the key to holding a successful festival?

To care.  To really put your customer first.  To treat all of your team and suppliers like they matter, because the reality is, without them you do not have a festival.  You want every single person who enters your festival to feel valued.  We all need each other, and as soon as you start to think that you are more important than anyone else on that site, you will lose the magic of what a festival is.  It’s a community of people who wants to build a world and then share it with others who have a  common love of music, laughter and companionship. 

Gill Tee– Co-founder/Festival Director

What communication strategies can be adopted to rebuild the trust of festival-goers? 

For us, we don’t feel that the trust has ever gone away. Far from it in fact.  From the get go we have kept a constant dialogue with our customers. We knew that our ticket holders would be more likely to stick with us if we rolled our artists over to the following year so we worked hard to achieve this and were blown away to retain 90% of our festival customers. 

We have continued to engage with our followers on our social platforms and provided rich content through features, newsletters and general comments and interaction with artists and fans alike. We have launched a new merch range and added content for the 2021 edition of Black Deer like the launch of Jackson Social members bar.

This is how we have maintained the goodwill by constantly evolving and taking our customers with us. As promoters, Gill and I put out personal messages to Black Deer followers on a regular basis. We’ve built a strong engaged community and we can’t wait to get right in the middle of them in June 2021!  

Deborah Shilling – Co-Founder/Marketing Director


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