What: Vault Festival 2019

Where: Waterloo Arches, London

When: 23 January – 17 March

Producer: The Heritage Arts Company

While the year’s start is not synonymous with festivals, Vault is an exception. It brings nearly two months of entertainment, with 400+ shows from more than 2,000 artists, featuring new writing in theatre and comedy, cabaret, immersive experiences, late night parties.

Director Andy George told Access that the main logistical challenges are the spaces themselves. “We build the venues from scratch every year, so whether that’s the rumbling of the trains overhead, network rail doing engineering works above causing leaks in new places, or the ongoing battle with humidity – there are always new challenges every year that spring up where we might not have had them before. It keeps us on our toes.

“Creating exciting spaces (both in the performance venues and public bar areas) is key to what we’re trying to achieve. We aim to do this through close collaboration between our art director and our head of lighting. We want the experience of coming to the festival to be more than just stepping into a theatre. We want the whole thing to be an adventure. We want to create spaces that can spark a thousand conversations.”

Vault started back in 2012 using filing cabinets on their side for audience seating, with some par cans borrowed from White Light, and a couple of Mackie Thump speakers on sticks. “Now in our seventh year, we install 12 venues, 5 bars, and 3 box offices in just 9 days, with full Lx, Sound, Video and rigging,” George added.

He continued: “We’re still limited to what we can fit in each space but we’re proud of the rigs we’re able to offer. So many shows start their lives at fringe festivals and venues, so for us, we want the technical provision to be as high quality as possible. If a show starts off with the bare essentials, it’s difficult to grow it from there. We want a show to be able to come here and achieve the best it can be.

“We’re constantly re-thinking how we use the spaces we work with. Refining and tweaking, always trying to improve the environments we create. When VAULT Festival began in 2012, we had no idea it would become what it is today. From three weeks, 25 shows, and 7,000 audience members to eight weeks, 410 shows, and an expected 82,000 audience members – it’s been a hell of a ride.

“We’ve thought about calling it a day – like most big arts projects, it can be pretty draining and relentless. The festival’s scope has grown faster than our resources, meaning it never feels like we’ve ‘got there’. But the enthusiasm and encouragement of our supporters, artists and staff has kept us going.”


Lighting, rigging, power and SFX hires: White Light (Since its 2012 inception)

Sound and video – Stage Sound Services (since 2014)

Seating rakes – Steel Deck Ltd (since 2015)

Lighting, sound and video: dry hire, and hosting White Light apprentices for the duration of the festival

Install and de-rig: Steel Deck