Thursday, 14 January 2016

Vault Festival preview

DEEP under the streets of South London, a series of tunnels are about to play host to a six-week festival of dancing, music, theatre, circus, comedy and cabaret.
Said event is the Vault Festival, back for a fourth year, and this time organisers say it’s bigger and better than ever.
Boxman, LoopsEnd, The Mmorpg Show, The Princess and the Pea, Pirates of the Carabina, Comedy Club 4 Kids, Trgyve Wakenshaw, Felix Hagan and the Family and The Misfit Analysis are just some of the many performers, shows and attractions which can be found in the eight performance spaces in the Leake Street tunnels underneath Waterloo, which also includes three bars and a restaurant.
The festival is co-directed by Andy George who says he anticipates about 40,000 people will come down into the depths to explore what’s on offer over the six weeks from January 27.
“It’s grown exponentially since we launched in 2012,” he tells me. “The first year we had 9,000 people come over a three week period.
“This year we are running for six weeks and we are expecting 40,000 people through the door to see and take part in 150 shows and events – it’s mad but fun and exciting and we are really looking forward to it.”
Between 50 and 60 per cent of the acts taking part applied to do so with the rest through invitation. It is a system that Andy says gives the audience a chance to see a broad range of talent – from those who are new to the circuit, and to the festival, to those who are more established and some who have done Vault before.
“This year we were inundated with applications,” he says. “It was really difficult because people had clearly invested so much time and thought in them.
“It’s hard on the soul as you want to give people the best opportunity you can so the process was tough.
"But it's great that Vault has now become an established brand and has been so successful."
He puts this success down to a combination of sourcing the best talent, giving it a community feel and the unique nature of the venue.
And with ticket prices averaging the £10 to £12 mark, Andy says it also represents great value for money.
"The reason we started was to create a fair platform for people to create and present work where the financial risk isn't all on their shoulders," he explains.
"We want it to work as much as they do. From an audience point of view part of the fun of it is the excitement of going underground. It's an unusual venue - a bit like escaping down Alice's rabbit hole.
"Money is also still tight for many people so we want to make Vault as accessible as possible which means keeping ticket prices as low as we can."
This year he promises an "incredible" and packed line up that has "plenty for everyone".
“We don’t have any headliners which means all the acts have equal billing," he says. "I think we have something for everyone and I’m really proud of that.
“Some are returnees which is great to continue the relationship but there are many new acts which we are really pleased to bring to new audiences.
"For me it's all one big highlight," he adds warmly. “However, I am looking forward to Bpolar show which is coming from Israel in the first week and is doing a visual re telling of the Diary of Madman. It’s the first year we have been able to curate and bring in work from outside the UK so it’s a landmark show.
"Then there is Echoes by Henry Nayler and Gilded Balloon which is an interlinking story about modern jihadi brides and Victorian colonialists which I am looking forward to and then we have cabaret act Denim which is here for a two week run.
“In terms of comedy we have Loren O’Brien who is very funny and one to watch. I'm also looking forward to the physical comedy of Squidboy."
As well as the main programme, this year the team has introduced the first Vault Film Festival which will include both long and short form screenings, drama, documentaries and animation and which Andy says has already had "an astonishingly positive response".
Not only that, from 10pm Vaults Lates kicks off with a series of events including barnstorming ceilidhs, an all night silent disco, a New Orleans Mardi Gras or a Valentines Ball.
"What’s great is that you can come down at about 6pm and see some comedy or drama, have something to eat, or a drink at the bar, and then stay and enjoy a cabaret or music and dancing making it a whole night event," says Andy.
And following on from last year’s success, Mini Vault is also back, to make sure that the younger members of the family are catered for - including newborns and toddlers.
This side of the festival is co-directed by Rose Alexander who says that it has doubled in size from last year’s debut and has an emphasis on fun.
"We were delighted that there was such a fantastic reception last year as it was the first children’s event in that space," she says.
"The tunnels are amazing and will feel transformative so it’s the perfect place for a party, and people especially kids, find it such an adventure.
"This year we have got three weekends of fun with a variety of events going on, some of which are free and some of which are ticketed.
"We also wanted it to be aimed at the whole family rather than just at children with an emphasis on the whole family having fun together, so to programme along those lines has been really exciting."
Among the many highlights is poetry by Roger McGough, music from BAC Beatbox Academy, comedy from Comedy Club 4 Kids and circus magic from Pirates Of The Carabina.
Elsewhere Rose says there are mime artists, fancy dress and face painting and a chance to make costumes.
"Big Fish Little Fish is doing a big family-friendly rave and then we are launching Under The Sea Mini Rumpus which will take over the entire space - it's going to be an amazing club event for all the family.
"There is lots of live music and this year there is a more carnivalistic gipsy feel to the festival. We have circus and an opportunity to learn circus skills, marching bands, installations and light shows and a soft play area for babies plus lots of amazing storytelling.
"We've also got loads of workshops as we wanted to encourage families to come in and stay and play all day.
"It’s going to be like a secret party that everyone is invited to!"

Vault Festival takes place in the Leake Street tunnels, Waterloo, between January 27 and March 6. visit for full listings.

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