VAULT Festival: Festival Focus

Festival co-director Andy George tells us about Waterloo’s huge arts showcase, VAULT Festival.

1 / 1

VAULT Festival is an underground festival that has very much come into the light. And also stayed underground.

Launched in 2012 in the The Vaults, the tunnels underneath Waterloo Station, it gave a home to edgy, boundary-pushing productions that had sometimes struggled to find venues in central London.

Since then, it has grown in every conceivable way. Its sprawling programme includes comedy, theatre, film, parties, immersive productions and more. And though much of its programme is still staged in the cavernous Vaults, it has expanded into other venues around Waterloo. It has had to, such has been the demand from both audiences and artists.

Co-director Andy George tells us more about what to expect from VAULT Festival:

What is VAULT Festival?

VAULT Festival is London’s biggest arts festival. In 2018, it runs from 24 January to 18 March and features over 335 shows and events across theatre and performance, comedy, film and late-night parties. VAULT features shows and events from the most exciting emerging artists from across London and the UK and internationally.

VAULT takes place at several sites in Waterloo. Our home and hub is The Vaults, the labyrinth of Victorian tunnels beneath Waterloo Station. The 2018 festival will also feature shows at Network Theatre, Waterloo East Theatre, Travelling Through Bookshop and Granby Place and on the famous graffiti tunnel, Leake Street.

Why was VAULT Festival created?

VAULT was created to provide the best opportunity for artists to present work in the heart of London on a financial deal that doesn’t put all the risk on their shoulders and doesn’t force them to hand over money upfront to participate. It means that the artists’ work can be bolder, better, larger and funnier. And it means they can reach out to attract new audiences in a unique and atmospheric environment.

VAULT was also created with audiences at its heart. We remain committed to keeping the tickets affordable and accessible to all. We truly believe there is “something for everyone”, from side-splitting comedy, to immersive circus and musicals, to the sharpest new writing from the next generation of makers.

Immersive musical Neverland play as part of VAULT 2018
Immersive musical Neverland play as part of VAULT 2018

How has the festival changed since it was first launched?

This will be the sixth edition of the festival. In 2012, the festival was three weeks long, featured 25 shows and sold 7000 tickets. In 2018, the festival will be eight weeks long, feature 335 groups of artists, and we expect and hope to sell 65,000 tickets. Every year the festival has grown and expanded in quantity. But we’re also trying to ensure the quality of experience for the audiences, our staff and the visiting artists keeps improving, too.

What do you look for when programming the festival?

We look for innovative and bold ideas, and for exciting and diverse people. It’s also really important that the shows fit in the style and ethos of the festival and will suit the wonderful, but challenging, spaces we create and work in.

Which show would you recommend for someone who’s never been to VAULT Festival before?

We always recommend making a night of it. Come down, see a couple of shows, have some food and drinks, and then buy a ticket for one of the Lates and party the night away. Here’s a recommended night out with some great new writing, side-splitting comedy and a classy party to boogie away into the small hours:

Monster by Worklight Theatre

A unique combination of new writing and Shakespeare, featuring fragmented voices of Othello, Patrick Stewart and Mike Tyson. Monster is a thrilling new play where fact and fiction blur, and multiple masculinities collide.

Police Cops In Space by The Pretend Men

Edinburgh comedy hits The Pretend Men with a low-fi sci-fi set in the most dangerous place on Earth… space.

House Of Burlesque: Lock In 

Be whisked away into a world of decadence and excess featuring a multitude of treats including: Pop-Up Cabaret, Silent Disco featuring our Showgirl Explosions full of balloons, confetti and performances, and a cinema.

Fat Tuesday, part of VAULT 2018
Fat Tuesday, part of VAULT 2018

Which show would you recommend for someone who’s a regular at VAULT Festival and why?

For A Black Girl by Nicole Acquah

For A Black Girl explores female sexuality, violence and the staggering effect of everyday racism. Join us as we uncover the ugly truths behind court rooms, classrooms and bedrooms in this candid exploration of the Black British experience.

The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote Of La Mancha by Little Soldier

Little Soldier’s award-winning and critically acclaimed take on Cervantes’ timeless tale. The company attempt to re-enact one of the most accomplished works of fiction ever written.

Fat Tuesday by Shotgun Carousel

London’s answer to global Mardi Gras festivities brings together all of the international sounds of the celebration with the best of London’s live acts.

What is your own VAULT Festival highlight?

This year, 52% of the VAULT 2018 programme is female-led work (either written, directed or created by a woman/women). Given the truly justified recent and ongoing criticism of the industry for a lack of female representation, we are proud of and inspired by the brilliant women who will present work at the festival.

Some of those highlights include Katie Bonna’s Paper. Scissors. Stone., coming-of-age drama Glitter Punch, Edinburgh hit Mission Abort, and one-woman shows Foreign Body, Big Bad and Double Infemnity.

VAULT Festival runs from 24 January to 18 March.