Vault Festival, London’s take on Edinburgh Fringe, desperately needs our help
Just under Waterloo Station, you’ll find a venue which for eight weeks every year creates a fertile ground of comedy, cabaret and the dramatic arts. The Vault Festival has brought us comic relief, but now it’s being turfed out of its unique venue and needs Londoners to save it, writes Adam Bloodworth.
London venues often boast that they are “subterranean,” as if they are some kind of labyrinth of quirky spaces that you could spend a whole evening getting lost in. Well, The Vaults actually are that. It’s a place like no other: in the heart of zone 1, underneath Waterloo Station, it’s probably the only place in the capital that genuinely feels as if you’ve hot-footed it to another dimension. And heavens, sometimes in London you need a quick escape.
But from next year, Vault Festival could look very different – if it continues at all – after the second biggest-arts event, second only to the Edinburgh Fringe, was turfed out of its underground home.
The venue has hosted Vault Festival since, 2012; with hundreds of theatre, cabaret and comedy acts lugging their kit down into the genuinely subterranean venue each year to experiment with new material. It offered an incredible experience for artists and audiences.
It’s not just the programming. Having hundreds of shows staged all in one place, rather than spread across London, encourages community. You can pop to the bar for a drink without paying for a ticket and make a new friend, or get flyered by a showrunner in the public spaces and spontaneously book another show that’s on in an hour’s time, twenty metres from where you’re having your pint. It brings the flexibility and the culture of the Edinburgh Fringe to London. You could go into the festival at 3pm and not leave until midnight, having ingested three shows, a meal and enough pints to make finding the exit a struggle.
“It’s hard to imagine where else this celebration of grassroots theatre could go,” wrote Time Out’s Alice Saville. It’s true.
Almost half a million audience members have visited the Vault Festival over the past decade, and the festival has helped launch the careers of thousands of artists with its inclusive, easy to understand resources page that encourages people to take that step and apply.
The Vault festival has created fertile ground for London’s cultural scene. Investors and financial institutions up and down the country are looking to create so-called “social capital”. What could be more valuable than enabling the next generation of London comedy? While Vault Festival is not-for-profit business owners looking to invest may find sliding into their DMs leads to worthwhile conversations at both ends.
Vault Festival’s woes are a bellwether for the arts’ desperate fight to stay alive during this cost of living crisis. It’s estimated that a fifth of London’s music venues could be forced to shut due to increased costs and many of the UK’s regional theatres are at risk of closure due to the desperate need for funding, the Theatres Trust revealed recently.
The Vault Festival has always made my bleak winters joyously warm. I can only hope the venue and festival find a solution.