Deer Shed is a true family feast for all ages! And healthier than a Colonel's bucket!

Deer Shed 2022 review

By Deb Baynes | Published: Thu 11th Aug 2022

around the festival site

Friday 29th to Sunday 31st July 2022
Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire, YO7 3BZ, England MAP
currently £180 incl camping
Daily capacity: 10,000
Last updated: Thu 26th May 2022

Three years and one global pandemic later, our favourite family-friendly field-based bonanza called Deer Shed is back!

It's July 2022 and off to Baldersby family Gilbert goes, keen to see how this long-anticipated event on hold since 2019 shapes up against its 11 x predecessors. Never a let-down, we know we're in for a cracker. But what delights lie beyond the gates this year? Which bands will make an impact? Where can we find Fish Finger Heaven? And will the forecasted rain win the weather war?!!

To be fair, no one really minds the wet stuff at Deer Shed, the only place in the UK meteorology is done away with. Because smiley festival folks don't care about the rain, right! There's waaay too much to be getting on with here, and 'nowt a decent waterproof won't sort' as the locals might say. Except that we're back to a tent now - no more VW T25 for us (sob) - and we're praying for plenty of the sunny stuff. Mainly as we have no idea of said tent's condition…

How to describe Deer Shed? It's not a music festival – that doesn't even scratch the surface of what's on offer over the three-day event. More accurately, Deer Shed brings together all ages to celebrate music, comedy, spoken word, outdoor activities, crafts, well-being, games, science, sports, and loads more. This year's theme is Pocket planet – a nod to our beautiful world and all its differences from corner to corner, a colourful space filled with colossal beauty while compact all at once. Just like Deer Shed itself, a diverse, multi-cultural, multi-coloured pleasure chest.

Venture one step beyond the entrance gates and you'll find the feel-good vibe waiting. With a capacity of just 10,000 revellers, and a small and safe site that's easy to get around – filled with miles of countless smiles – this is one happy, homely, hug of a festival. So much so, that I'm completely at ease allowing my kids the opportunity to roam freely this year and enjoy DS12 independently. Fair enough since they're now 11 and 9 respectively – not to mention fully appreciative of the layout, being frequent flyers since they were aged 4 and 2! The only rule was not to spend all their pocket money on the Ferris Wheel by Saturday morning!

So much goes on here, it's tough to know where to begin. The best thing to do is throw any plans you had out of the tent flap, wander around and see how your adventure unfolds just as it did once more for the Gilberts! Here are our highlights.

The musicians…

One thing about Deer Shed never changes: you can always expect a right-royal musical mash-up. All kinds of vibes, genres, and sounds served up by names you know and plenty you don't - which matters zilch, to be fair, with half of Deer Shed's charm being the 'wander, watch and WOW' moments. Besides, like any festy, you can never see everyone and those you do rarely let you down. It's live music, after all - born to move you in a way the pre-recorded and pressed variety doesn't always manage.

A must-see for me this year was Yard Act. Mainly because snaring a ticket for this Leeds band in the big city takes lightning-fast fingers, and since that's not me, I was super-chuffed to catch them here. Their recent Mercury Prize nomination makes sense as they crank out tune after tune from this year's debut album, The Overload. A bit Blur, a bit The Fall, singer James Smith and mates took us on their post-punk life kinda sucks journey. Although during their gig on Friday, nothing sucked whatsoever. Particularly for super-fan Isaac, welcomed to the stage to close out the final song. He did well to hide his elation, playing it cool with the best of them as he sang alongside Smith to the album's title track. T'was a cracking gig, Rich even (pun intended), and set the tone early doors.

While gutted to miss the likes of the wonderfully chaotic The Lovely Eggs, and the psyched-up Snapped Ankles, it was a genuine pleasure to catch the utterly beautiful Gasper Nali, a chap from a tiny Malawian town playing a Babatoni. Who'd have known a whopping 3-meter-long DIY bass guitar played with a stick and a bottle can sound so good? Gasper did, clearly, and he quickly has us hooked on his hypnotic Afro vibes.

But the best of the weekend's musical WOWs arrived in record time on the first night. How I've not come across Leeds collective TC & The Groove Family before now is a mystery. They were incredible! Blending Afrobeats with Jazz and Jungle to create a beautiful bouncing sound, this super positive posse had everyone dancing and completely lifted the Lodge tent roof off. Not your average pre-snooze nightcap, but up there as one of the weekend's finest.

I'd say the same about Self Esteem,, who kicked up a storm on the Main Stage Saturday. Another recent Mercury nominee - and not a surprise, either - Rebeca Lucy Taylor (to use her Sunday name) danced away suggestively in her kilt-cum-Queen of Hearts outfit, mad to look at while magical to listen to and causing the good-sized crowd plenty of sway. With apologies to the little peeps – rather, their parents – for her somewhat non-kid friendly verbals, a shout-out to her mate's daughter Alice who 'finally likes my music", and a nod to the Radio 6 massive dedicated to her cause, her fierce but fun set was a force and a half. 

Saturday also brought along one Denise Chaila, a highly energetic and poetic Zambian-born Irish MC who laid down some rather cool rhymes to a welcoming crowd. A friendly lass, too, it seemed as she allowed the kids (including mine) to selfy themselves silly by her side her post-show. The day's highlight for me, though, was Mr John Grant. When he last visited the Baldersby fields in 2015, I had to settle for listening from my tent while minding two very young sleepy kids. This year, what a joy to enjoy his set in the flesh. I challenge anyone to dislike John; his deep hypnotic voice, never mind the sounds he conjures, from the beautiful piano-backed ballads to the spacey synthesizer-led songs like Boy from Michigan, last year's album title track. A musical stalwart, a song-writing genius, and an all-around lovely fella, what a way to bow about before the rain returned.

The eats…

Rubbish festival food died years ago - fact. Still, it never fails to amaze me what a feast the collective Deer Shed chefs conjure. I mean, try as my family does to get past Fish Finger Heaven, every year someone falls prey to their delicacies, and this one was no different. Although the bulging burrito from Kanteena was enough to feed half a family – thankfully, mine - and that was after spilling a good chunk of it too! Safe to say, with a ‘street’ full of eats, there was plenty for every taste.

Great to see another Yorkshire goodie, Northern Bloc, here for the first time and in numbers, too, with multiple vans scattered across the park serving up their delicious hand-made ice cream, which our kids were only too happy to see!

 And, of course, Deer Shed's BFF spirits distiller, Sloemotion, serving up drink after decadent drink in one of several cocktail tents. Long gins at festivals = good times, IMO. Especially when they come courtesy of one of Yorkshire’s finest gin makers. For those not so keen, there was plenty of ale to be found at one of several festival inns. Cheers!

The new stuff…

Amid the tried and tested, much-loved staples – the fabulous sports field, sizzling science tent and arty-crafty workshops - our hosts will always whip out plenty of new stuff. Great for those who bounce back like a boomerang each year, although with so much on offer, I'll admit getting around every inch of the festival is tough and scoring a full house nigh on impossible.

First, there was wild swimming. It’s now hugely popular in the UK since the lockdowns of 2020 when folks looked to nature for solace amid the madness. With Deer Shed clearly a fan of all things nature – and on a site which handily backs onto the River Swale – it was time to invite campers in for a dip! Only a few, mind, with a professional wild swim instructor to lead the way. What an experience for those lucky enough to sign up quick enough. Which wasn’t me, by the way… although the state of my tent each morning would have been best tackled wearing a wetsuit. And for others who didn’t make the cut, all the usual well-being activities were back again, including early morning running in the woods, meditating, tai chi and yoga for adults and kids.

Another super-fun addition this time was in the Wilderwild area, formerly where we enjoyed stacks of wholesome crafting activities like wood carving, leather stamping and metal soldering. Before you panic – just as we did on seeing this had all disappeared – it had simply moved to a new location elsewhere on the site. In its place were hundreds of wooden pallets, several buckets filled with hammers, saws and nails, and a collective of enthusiastic adults known as the City of Play, inviting us in to enjoy a wood-tastic time in Tinkertown! Aimed at the kids, yes, although with adult supervision compulsory, this was an opportunity to use creativity, vision, team skills and elbow grease to construct towers using the pallets and random pieces of wood lying around. While many wouldn’t get through a planning application, there were plenty of interesting structures to behold. Perhaps by the end of the weekend, they had morphed together into one magnificent pallet palace?

The magic moments…

It isn’t a Deer Shed without a few gems, and this year we had plenty!

For starters, how about our children running around free as birds?! Seeing them unleashed and wandering in the wild without their parents and not a zip of fear was pure gold.

And… the lady at the festival entrance on day 1 who officially rubber-stamped their independence – well, for my 11-year-old at least, after hearing his age and saying "Aah…Congratulations on your freedom!” as she handed him an adult wristband. Someone approximately four-foot in size suddenly felt ten feet tall...

Then there were the Dads playing headers with a space hopper in a drizzle sports field. Badly, I might add. But oh, the laughs! And to think I only found them having just watched hundreds of kids and their parents cheering on a (clearly) pre-rehearsed WWF style wrestling match – similarly funny and provided much-needed hilarity amid the rain.

The crowd in the Sloemotion tent on the Sunday aft gathered around an iPad watching England win the Euros on the Sunday, swiftly followed by rounds of 'It's Coming Home' merriment on repeat. And too right! Sixty-six years of hurt and all that!

The silent discos! Packed out every night with revellers of all ages, and even teeny tiny folks sporting headphones almost as big as their noggin! Watching the magic unfold without headphones on yourself is so much fun, by the way! Hearing the crowd singing its head off, watching them jump about madly like pogo sticks when all you can hear is blissful nothingness. Incredible.

My child losing a wallet - and finding it again, thanks to some kind chap taking it to the welfare tent. A bit like when we lost Mrs Rabbit in 2016 and spotted her sitting upright at the front of a food stall. ‘Cos it’s that kind of festival. Filled with kind!

The best bartenders in the world (or the Arbor Inn, at least), Molly and George, so massively in love with their ‘extra cash earner’ job for the weekend and serving up each pint with free of charge laughs. Hope you enjoy your holiday, guys – you’ve sure earned one!

A true family feast for all ages – and healthier than a Colonel's bucket!

There is so much more good to say about Deer Shed. Their green vision that grows in earnest with every year, and each stall committed to their reusable plastic cup policy. An ambition to keep progressing without ever compromising the safe, family vibe. Securing some of the best acts around – even if they didn't know it when they booked them (although something tells me they might have had an inkling this time - who doesn't like bands from Yorkshire at a Yorkshire festival?!).

Think your kids might be bored? Think again! It's not just the music serving up a mash-up but the entire festival from one fence to the other. Tots, Teens and Too-old-to-asks' can all find plenty happening. In fact, I don't know anywhere you can craft a copper ring, play Quidditch, build a den, canoe on a lake, eat gyros and dance to some of the best global musical talent all in beautiful North Yorkshire. So, to the mate who said to me recently he felt he'd missed his moment taking the kids to Deer Shed as they're now too old at 16 and 12 – it's absolutely not the case.

As for you, rain. Our tent was not one bit prepared for your incessant behaviour and has since been permanently laid to rest. But you didn't win, oh no. We still did everything within our power to enjoy the north's best family festival. And we triumphed.

Because even in the rain, the Deer Shed festival always shines bright.

review by: Deb Baynes

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