VAULT Festival marked the end of its decade-long run at its original venue, The Vaults on Sunday 19th March, bringing to a close a record-breaking year which welcomed more than 81,000 audience members throughout its eight week run.
The 2023 festival saw more than 4,000 independent artists perform 1,860 individual performances of 553 shows in 11 unique venues throughout Waterloo and South Bank, and featured 271 world premieres and 94 professional debuts, highlighting the colossal loss to the creative industries and audiences if VAULT Festival were unable to return for 2024 and beyond.
Since it was created in 2012 as a one-off project, VAULT Festival has grown to become the UK’s leading independent festival of live performance. VAULT Festival exists to platform work from underrepresented artists who otherwise may not have access to opportunities elsewhere, with the 2023 programme comprising work that was 33% Black or African Diaspora-led, 34% Asian Diaspora-led and 34% Migrant or Refugee-led with 55% LGBTQIA+ led, 32% Disabled-led and 51% Working Class-led. VAULT Festival’s impact on the UK’s cultural landscape over the past 11 years is shown directly through its figures: 13,112 individual performances of a total of 3,478 shows have been presented to almost half a million audience members, with an average ticket price of just £12.40 in 2023, ensuring that live performance remains accessible for artists and audiences.
Artists that have performed at VAULT Festival, using it as a springboard to success elsewhere, include writers Vinay Patel, Isley Lynn, Joseph Charlton, Margaret Perry, Martha Watson Allpress and Tatty Hennessy; storytellers James Rowland, Joe Sellman-Leava, Liz Kingsman and Katie Arnstein; theatre companies Superbolt Theatre, The PappyShow, Exit Productions, Police Cops and Pigfoot Theatre; and comedians Mae Martin, Joe Lycett, and Desiree Birch.
With the future of VAULT Festival at serious risk, its loss would be devastating to the UK’s cultural future and London’s economy.
Director and Co-Founder Andy George says, We are proud to have platformed the work of over 4000 independent artists in 2023, and almost 3500 shows over the past decade. We will always fight for the voices of underrepresented artists who otherwise may not have had access to these opportunities to be heard loud and proud. We are fiercely passionate about the work that our artists create, about them as unique and wonderful individuals, and about promoting a world and industry that is more inclusive, more accessible, more sustainable, and more creative. Whilst our journey at our original home is coming to an end, we are determined for this to be the end of the chapter, not the end of the book.
Now without a home, the future of VAULT Festival is in real jeopardy, with an ongoing campaign launched to help raise funds and find a new venue for VAULT Festival that would be open, inclusive and accessible to all.
A number of leading arts and entertainment figures have voiced their public support for the #SaveVAULT campaign, including actors Imelda Staunton, George Mackay, Jim Carter, Sophie Thompson, Jonathan Bailey, Adjoa Andoh, Nicola Coughlan, India Amarteifio, drag artist Scarlett Harlot, comedian Joanne McNally, and playwright James Graham.
To round off the 2023 Festival, the VAULT Festival Awards Ceremony recognised the incredible body of work at VAULT Festival this year, celebrating exceptional shows and outstanding contributions from artists. 22 winners were announced from 100 nominees across a range of categories, showcasing a vibrant and varied festival.
Alongside the VAULT Festival Awards Ceremony, 2023 also saw a record-breaking number of award nominations for the Offie Awards. Nominations for Best Performance Piece included Scratches from Plain Heroines, I was a German by Clare Fraenkel, The Long Run from Katie Arnstein and Bec Martin and NO I.D. by Tatenda Shamiso.
The IDEA Awards nominated Fruits, or the Decline of a Distant Memory and Hildegard Von Bingen for Lighting Design, HIGH STEAKS and Belinda for Experimental Theatre, It’s a Motherf**king Pleasure for Devised or Physical Theatre and the Access Award, Liv Ello: Swarm and YOU ARE GOING TO DIE for Devised or Physical Theatre, The Learning Lottery for Immersive Theatre and Clown Sex for Natasha Sutton Williams’ Performance.
The inaugural VAULT Festival OffFest Awards also celebrated the work of artists across the festival who would not be eligible in other categories, with nominees A Manchester Anthem, Bloody Mary: Live!, Borders, BUFF, Butchered, Gay Witch Sex Cult, How We Begin, In Clay, Post Sex Spagbol, Siapa Yang Bawa, Melayu Aku Pergi?, The Ballerina, The Silver Bell, Thirsty and Wasteman. After surviving three years of cancellations and postponements, and without any core public funding, VAULT Festival 2023 was able to bring joy and creativity to tens of thousands of people for eight weeks during the dark winter months.
The future of VAULT Festival remains in jeopardy – only with the continued support of artists, audiences, sponsors, partners, and individuals, will VAULT Festival be able to survive and open its doors once again.