top of page
audience large 2020_8928.jpg
VF header.png


"A breeding ground for artists of all kinds, to be weird, outrageous, boring, good, bad; to succeed or fail in a safe environment" - Artist

VAULT Festival launched in 2012, initially as a one-off project; a labyrinth of tunnels under Waterloo Station was derelict so we saw an opportunity to take it over for three weekends with a handful of exciting shows, a couple of big parties, and a pop-up cinema. It was a huge project for a young company but it came through against the odds with 7,000 audience members attending the inaugural VAULT Festival.We returned in 2014 with a more defined and bigger ambition. We saw the opportunity to create something unique - a playground for diverse early-career artists to share bold and exciting work without risking everything. We wanted to address historic barriers and provide solutions for a better future. We hoped to:

  • Flatten barriers that disproportionately affect people from underrepresented backgrounds from forging creative careers;

  • Enable artists to reach new audiences and for audiences to connect with new artists; and

  • Enable artists to develop skills, connections, and networks that can elevate and sustain their careers.

VAULT Festival swiftly became internationally recognised as a linchpin of the UK’s live performance scene, delivering nine sensational editions of the festival until what would later become the final edition in 2023.


Transforming the derelict tunnels underneath Waterloo Station, VAULT Festival was an underground warren of electrifying experiences, with each festival showcasing hundreds of bold and brilliant new shows across theatre, comedy, cabaret, music, immersive experiences and epic late night parties.


VAULT Festival was a beloved platform which, across nine festivals and eleven years, showcased more than 13,500 performances of 3,000+ sensational shows, created by over 12,000+ artists, and experienced by 476,000+ audience members. We gave 850 artists their full professional debuts, we presented 1,150 world premieres, and launched new shows right across the globe including to Brazil, Canada, Ukraine, India, Australia & the US. 85% of the original work we programmed went on to have a future life nationally and/or internationally.  There are more diverse artists in the creative industry because of our work, emerging artists had a greater chance to future success thanks to our work and we were a launchpad for some of the biggest stars of the future.


We grew 1141% in our first seven years; to meet the demand of the artists wanting to present with us and the audiences wanting to see that work. The number of artists looking to present work in London far outweighs the number of viable opportunities available to them, so we wanted to enable as many of them as possible to do it at VAULT. This growth makes us the fastest growing arts festival in the UK, and the biggest curated arts festival in the World.


In 2023 we learned that we needed to find a new home for VAULT Festival, however, having found a new home, we weren't able to secure the funds needed in order to transition to our new space, and announced the closure of VAULT in March 2024.


Scroll down to read the story of VAULT Festival over the years, watch the highlights videos, find out the award winners and see the brochure for each edition.

VAULT Festival 2023 Press Images - Show © Kate Hockenhull photography(1).jpg
talk artistdev 2019_6759.JPG
DSC_4581 © Kate Hockenhull photography (1).jpg
VAULT Festival 2023 Press Images - The Flair Ground © Kate Hockenhull photography.jpg
VAULT Festival 2023 Press Images - Show © Kate Hockenhull photography(3).jpg
DSC_5189 © Kate Hockenhull photography.jpg
VAULT Festival 2023 Press Images - Show © Kate Hockenhull photography(5).jpg
VAULT Festival 2023 Press Images - Bars © Kate Hockenhull photography.jpg
audience large 2018_9601.JPG

“VAULT is the future” - Emma Thompson


A record-breaking year.

Watch the Highlights.

What was to become our final VAULT Festival in 2023 was a record-breaking year. With over 81,000 audience members watching 553 shows by more than 4,000 artists. Our 2023 programme was led by artists who were:

  • 59% LGBTQIA+

  • 56% Global Majority

  • 45% Working Class

  • 29% Disabled or Neurodiverse


2023 marked the return of VAULT Festival for the first time since the festival was cut short in 2020 due to Covid-19. The festival celebrated over a decade of exceptional live performance and showcased VAULT Festival’s incredible impact on the UK’s cultural landscape.

“The festival provides essential space and financial support to upcoming artists to help them stage work at the start of their careers, as well as creatives staging experimental work.” - Adjoa Andoh


A 10th Anniversary that should have been.

It was with broken hearts that we made the decision to cancel VAULT Festival 2022 to prioritise and protect the mental health, wellbeing, and safety of our staff, artists, and audiences following the emergence of the Omicron variant. We’d worked hard over the previous 21 months to recover from the devastation caused by the lost week of 2020’s Festival and the full postponement of 2021, towards delivering the safest, fullest, and best version of VAULT Festival 2022. It would have been our 10th anniversary, and with 600 shows from thousands of artists it was set to be our most exciting festival to date. It wasn’t all bad, though. In January of 2022, we launched VAULT Creative Studios, a new, dynamic programme of opportunities for artists and freelancers affected by the cancellation of 2022’s Festival.

“There’s no doubt it’s one of very few breeding grounds for the next generation of theatre makers and goers and it needs to be protected at all costs!” - Jonathan Bailey


A festival cut short.

The 2020 Festival was cut short by a week due to the global outbreak of Coronavirus, but before that, it hosted 513 productions across 2,135 performances featuring more than 2,129 artists. This included more than 230 never-before-seen shows, with 170 full professional premieres. All in all, we welcomed 75,670 audience members in our seven week run.

While the early end of the Festival was unforeseeable and incredibly hard for our staff and artists, it was followed by a tremendous outpouring of support from our audiences. 

Watch the Highlights.

“Full of joy, a place where artists connect with each other and each other’s work and where audiences connect with artists. A slice of vitality in the theatre calendar.” - The Stage


Takeovers & International Talent.

Our second crack at an eight-week Festival saw an eight week takeover by the internationally acclaimed Canadian/Ukranian production of Counting Sheep. 2019 was a year for collaborations, and we were delighted to work with the New Diorama Theatre, and the charities Help Refugees and Child.Org. We hosted 425 Productions across 3,126 performances, welcoming 79,851 audience members.

Watch the Highlights.

“There is quite honestly no other festival like it. This festival embraces the bold, beautiful, zany and downright wacky work. It champions underrepresented voices and platforms stories with unique perspectives.” - Carmen Macaree


Eight weeks? Let's do this!

For 2018, we took our biggest leap of faith since 2014, and expanded the Festival by a fortnight to eight weeks long. Applications to take part in the festival had been continuing to grow and we wanted to programme more shows, and try to counter the ever increasing costs of staging the Festival. The result? We almost doubled the number of productions we hosted to 351 shows (exceeding 3,000 performances for the first time). We got away with it: 70,508 people came to watch, meaning that the eight week festival was here to stay.

Watch the Highlights.

“The inclusive open arms of the space and all its people, the wonderful audiences, and the people I've met, I could not be more grateful for VAULT Festival. It’s more important than ever that fringe opportunities like this are here to celebrate the diversity of the theatre scene in this country” - KT Miles


A comedy launchpad.

In 2017 we introduced our first comedy festival. We’d had comedy in the festival lineup before – and some bloody good shows too – but 2017 saw the first dedicated comedy strand of programming – and we’ve never looked back. It’s funnier with comedy, after all. It struck a chord with our audiences too: more than 46,000 people made their way to the Festival to see a total of 180 different shows over six weeks.

Watch the Highlights.

“A vital part of the UK's entertainment scene, dedicated to opening up the industry to new artists, directors, writers, actors.” - India Amarteifio


Surging onwards.

VAULT Festival returned in 2016, still growing, featuring 137 different shows over six weeks. More than 35,000 people joined us underground to enjoy our most varied programme to date. We had family shows, comedy, cabaret, alt-entertainment, even a free film festival featuring 30 outstanding films from all over the world, as well as an onsite restaurant. And we introduced VAULT Surge, a cutting-edge series of educational activities and opportunities aimed at inspiring our artists and audiences. 2016 was also our five year anniversary, though none of us can remember making much of a fuss about it at the time… just goes to show how little time there is for reflection when things are moving so quickly.

Watch the Highlights.

“VAULT Festival is the most exciting place in London for new writing and new voices.”

- Imelda Staunton


The biggest arts festival in London

Watch the Highlights.

We walked away from 2014 having learned some big lessons. We decided to move away from producing our own shows and focus on the festival itself. We also learned that a six week festival seemed to work, and there was no shortage of talented artists looking to fill the weeks. The number of productions almost doubled to 117, and managed to attract just over 32,000 audience members to a Festival which featured, for the first time, an on-premises immersive-dining restaurant (Marco’s Meatballs, from the folks behind Peckham’s Forza Win) and a brand-new programme for under 11s, Mini VAULT.

VAULT Festival 2015 was supported by Adnams, White Light, Steeldeck, Cantate Communications, Stage Sound Services & IdeasTap. Our Charity Partner was The Passage.

“VAULT Festival is an amazing and vital part of our creative landscape. It's a place where ideas can grow and flourish.” - George MacKay


We're back!

Watch the Highlights.

There was no festival in 2013, but we kept coming back to the idea and seeing if we could develop it further. We wanted to improve, expand, and try and make it into a sustainable opportunity for artists who were struggling to find affordable, flexible spaces to get their work in front of an audience. So VAULT Festival returned in 2014 for six weeks, hosting 64 different events, including two in-house shows (click ‘More’ below to find out about that!). Once again – thanks to the efforts of an incredibly committed team, curious and supportive audiences which more than doubled to over 19,000, and a new group of talented artists – it worked.

2014 was the first (and last) time we produced two shows ourselves whilst running the Festival. The “gloriously whacked out” (Time Out) Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas was adapted and directed by Lou Stein, and starred Ed Hughes & Rob Crouch as Hunter S Thompson’s unforgettable nightmares Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo in “a real blast… a trip that I would heartily recommend” (The Telegraph ★★★★).[Full Programme].

Ian McEwan’s debut novel The Cement Garden was “as sharp as can be… rancid, beguiling and playful” (The Sunday Times ★★★★). Adapted by David Aula and Jimmy Osborne, the show was performed to critical acclaim by “a stunning cast” featuring George McKay and Ruby Bentall that left audiences “effectively shaken” (Metro ★★★★) [Full Programme].

On top of those two “headliners”, there was a hugely expanded theatre programme, featuring (among many others) work from Scratchworks TheatreSuperboltHouse of BlakewellBucket ClubPaula VarjackMove to StandDawn State and Yve Blake, and comedy from BattleActs!, Luisa Omielan, Mae Martin, Max & Ivan & Sara Pascoe.

Our late-night parties returned with a Winterwell festival collaboration, unbelievable jazz from Kansas Smitty’s and an all-out Mardi Gras on Fat Tuesday.

VAULT Festival 2014 was supported by Whitelight, Stage Sound Services, and Adnams.

“It’s a place where careers are made, connections are forged and a huge amount of messy fun is had.” - Time Out


So it begins...

Watch the Highlights.

This is the one that started it off, all those years ago. Created by the Heritage Arts Company, VAULT Festival was supposed to be a one-off project, lasting for three weeks in February and featuring 24 events – a mixture of cutting edge theatre, a pop-up cinema and a couple of big parties. Thanks to the hard work of a very small team, the belief and goodwill of the artists, and the cultural hunger of the audience (all 7,000-ish of them) the first VAULT Festival was a success, and set us on the amazing and winding journey to where we are today.

Running each night of the Festival were Silent Opera’s La BohèmeKILN Ensemble’s The Furies, and the flicker club and HAMMER’s horror-cinema.

The 2012 Festival also featured a “studio” series including work from nabokov, Rogues’ Gallery, Streetwise OperaRolemop Arts, Ella Hickson, Pangolin’s Teatime and more, plus new-writing night DESCENT and a scratch version of soon-to-be Fringe First winning Dirty Great Love Story written and performed by Katie Bonna and Richard Marsh.

“2012 was unique because we’d never done anything like it before. It all hung together with gaffatape and blutac. We sold some tickets via the Old Vic’s box office, and others using a hand-coded wordpress plugin (and a pen and paper). The bar was little more than a few icy buckets with beers from the cash n carry. I don’t think we slept the whole time. By the end of it, the thought of doing it again – ever – was not at the forefront of our minds.”

– Mat Burtcher, Festival Co-Founder

VAULT Festival 2012 was supported by the Old Vic Tunnels, IdeasTap, Network Rail, Stage Electrics and Adnams. Our Charity Partner was My Fair London.

bottom of page