The UK’s second largest arts festival, it has brought thousands of people together to enjoy sensational performances across many live entertainment formats. Housed in an underground spot below Waterloo station, VAULT festival has undoubtedly been the space where many friendships have been forged and grown, creating a community that helps to promote stronger individual wellbeing.
The festival itself takes place in bespoke venues across the heart of Waterloo, and is a joyous and creative burst of life spanning eight weeks that adds excitement to the dreary winter months. From entering through the graffiti tunnel of the Vaults, there are many different stages and shows for all tastes and timings, as well as an offering of food and drink for those hoping to grab a bite or socialise with friends. However, this could all be coming to an end as the event may lose its home to bigger projects, including an immersive superhero experience that is due to open later in the year. We know that many industries were hit hard financially during the COVID-19 pandemic, with lockdowns forcing venues to close their doors for years. The Vaults, London is no exception to this and so it is not hard to understand why they are now seeking more commercial work that could arguably bring in more revenue. It is important to mention that the venue has not completely closed its doors to the festival, but is not able to make a long term commitment as it faces its own uncertainties. A spokesperson for the Vaults has said that, ‘their insistence on booking in future festivals in advance is a larger commitment than we’re able to give them in the current economic climate.’ It is very clear that the Vaults wish to support the festival in every way that it can, but uncertainty is rife.
Nonetheless, a festival now on the search for a new home, this community driven culture scene has been running for 11 years, featured 3,000 bold shows, and welcomed over 400,000 audience members. Having been a vital launch pad for many creative careers from Emma Corrin to Joseph Charlton and Ava Wong Davies, its uncertain future is a real concern for the talent pipeline and a devastating blow to fringe theatre.
The organisers released the following statement: “The festival is recognised for being vitally important to the health and vibrance of the live performance landscape of the UK, has helped launch the careers of thousands of underrepresented artists, who otherwise may not have had access to creative opportunities, and has had a significant positive impact on local businesses. This decision is a significant threat to VAULT Festival’s survival and the wider creative industry.”
Coined “the most accessible, sustainable, affordable, and welcoming performance festival in the UK," Vault festival is the highlight of the year for many theatre and comedy fans. It has called the tunnels under London’s Waterloo station home since 2012, but has unfortunately been on standby since 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, with this year being the first year it has made a full return post-pandemic.
With the future of the VAULT Festival at risk, they have started a #SaveVAULT fundraising campaign, with the aim to raise £150,000 by the end of this year’s festival (19th March, 2023) in an attempt to secure its future. Director and co-founder Andy George has also issued a callout for venues that can offer 20,000+ square feet of space in the London area to get in touch, in the hope of finding a way forward.
Having gained attention from across the industry, professionals are speaking out against the closure calling it a “devastating loss.”
Our team here at Imagineerium have all spent a good deal of time working within the theatre business, from stage design to creative production, performing, directing, and set building, we have gained a vast deal of experience in our crafts by working on fringe productions. Our Co-founder, Creative and Managing Director, Natasha, has previously worked at VAULT festival at the Vaults and loved every minute of the creative journey, including the environment of the festival and its unique setting within the tunnels. Our Creative Producer, Saz, was also involved in two award winning shows at the festival, as Creative Producer for ‘Big Bad’ and Co-Director of ‘The Neath.’ Having been an inspiration to all of us working in the creative industry, we are extremely sad to see such an epic melting pot of creativity possibly come to an end at a time when we need it more than ever.
Community is essential and hubs of creativity that bring writers, producers, designers, directors, performers, techies all together in one space is crucial to the arts and events industry, as well as society as a whole. It enables people to develop and refine their skills, come up with something completely unique, which can be transferred onto projects and other lines of work that are necessary for all business needs.
Fringe theatre and off-west end productions are full of immersive R&D (rehearsed/researched and developed) pieces that open up a stream of creativity seen in no other domain. To be able to work in such a way is invaluable and plants the foundations of adaptability skills unseen from professionals in other sectors. These fringe festival platforms also provide time, space, and opportunity for people to create something bold and authentic, with the idea of developing something that could be performed on some of the biggest stages in the world. The possibilities of the creative process are endless.
We all know that theatre is magic, laughter is medicine, and community is sanctuary, and it is time we recognised the importance of these festivals and unifications for a happier, more fulfilled world…
If you’d like to make a donation towards the #SaveVAULT fund, please click the link below.
To donate click here.