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The festival team give the low-down on all things VAULT: part two

The subterranean celebration of arts and entertainment is over halfway through its eight-week run


© Heritage Arts/ VAULT Festival

Now past the halfway point of an eight-week run, VAULT Festival 2020 is well underway. The venue has swiftly become a must-attend event in the theatre calendar – tens of thousands of audience members are flocking to the railway arches and tunnels beneath Waterloo station that The Vaults calls home.

But why should the general public spend their time underground this season? And what can they do while they're there, apart from sampling over 600 theatre, comedy, cabaret, immersive and family shows and late-night parties of course?

We asked some of the Festival team to tell us more:




© Heritage Arts/ VAULT Festival

Why should people come to the 2020 VAULT Festival and spend their time underground beneath a train station?

Andy George – VAULT Festival co-director: Escape the dreary winter days and burrow deep into the world beneath London full of arts and delights. There's a wonderland of treats waiting for you to brighten your days and free your mind.

George Islay Calderwood – head of operations: There's so much going on here, there really is something for everyone. The first time I was here it reminded me of Budapest's ruin bars, and that's indicative of just how broad the spectrum of events here is.

Laura Drake Chambers – head of lates: To be reminded that this city, this country, this world is full of good people, making great art on every scale, and it can be found in the unlikeliest of places – underneath a train station!

Alex Brains – bar team member: What we lack in sunlight, we make up for in unique experiences. It's just an amazing time to explore different types of art that you wouldn't normally get the chance to see. Theatre, comedy, dance, music, club nights, we got it all.

Mat Burtcher – VAULT Festival co-director: It's a triple threat: have a unique, unforgettable time, support the next generation of artists, and spend less than you would at the cinema. Why wouldn't you want to spend time beneath a train station?


© Heritage Arts/ VAULT Festival

Why did you get involved in VAULT? How long have you been part of the VAULT family?

George: We started VAULT as an opportunity for artists to share their work in a supportive, exciting, and welcoming environment, for an audience to discover new shows and broaden their experiences at affordable prices, and for our staff to enjoy and relish their work. Opportunity, equality, respect, honesty and kindness remain our core values, by which we define everything we do.

Rhea Heath – general manager: I started as an assistant in 2016 and saw first-hand the passion that the team had. The Festival's core values are what I stand for, as a person and a professional, so I wouldn't want to work anywhere else. It's great getting up every day and knowing you're making a difference.

Chambers: I first came to VAULT as a visiting artist, bringing shows to their Lates programme since 2014. I fell in love with it completely and in 2018 I approached the team about taking me on to look after the Lates. They said yes, I did a little dance, and the rest as they say… two festivals later and VAULT's Lates programme is twice the size and thriving. 

Bríd Kirby – head of comedy: I've known Andy and Mat for a few years but it was during VAULT 2017 that I eventually suggested to them they should have a dedicated comedy programme. They loved the idea and so from that moment on I've been part of the core team here. That's another amazing thing about VAULT that you wouldn't find at any other festival – we want to continue to grow and develop and as a team are always open to finding new and innovative ways to build the festival.

Lee Drage – box office supervisor: Over the years I've been a punter, a performer, a stage manager and now a box office supervisor. I'm basically working my way round all the roles. When I have nine I get a free coffee.

Brains: I spend a lot of time around fringe festivals, and so VAULT Festival has always been on my radar. Many friends of mine have performed in/ written/ done tech for shows here over the years, and so when I saw that The Vaults was hiring in October 2018, I leapt at the chance and took on my first ever bar shift. Now I get to call these tunnels my home!

Laura Drake Chambers and Bríd Kirby
© left: Rah Petherbridge

What is your favourite bite to eat/ drink to grab while at the festival?

Bec Martin-Williams – head of theatre and performance: Can't go past a gin and tonic and a packet of crisps at midnight.

George: PopCo's bánh mì sandwiches are unreal. Give me one of those and a pint of Meantime's Yakima Red and I'm happy!                

Chambers: Fave has got to be the mac 'n' cheese.      

Kirby: There is a Raspberry Sour beer in our craft beer bar that I'm pretty sure I will drink out of stock. That, and the truffle mac 'n' cheese are my diet!  

Emma Doble – front of house: Meantime Lager, for sure.   

Drage: Much like a marathon, VAULT festival can be a feat of endurance, so I always carry a selection of isotonic energy gels about my person.

Brains: As a bartender, I know that there's a whole lot to choose from. Craft beer? Covered. Cocktails? Sorted. For me, it's definitely an old fashioned. Love me a whiskey, I do. 

Mat Burtcher, Bec Martin-Williams and Andy George

If you weren't at VAULT, what would you be doing this time of year?

Burtcher: I honestly can't remember or imagine a winter without VAULT Festival.

Martin-Williams: Idly languishing, devoid of meaning or purpose.

Calderwood: Probably sleeping? Seriously, what does everyone else do in January?

Heath: Binge-watching Netflix and getting over the January blues. Luckily with the Festival I don't need to do that!

Kirby: I fly to Australia immediately post-VAULT to work the festival season out there – I would probably be spending more time there if it wasn't for VAULT. I guess that means I've given up some summer sun to spend two cold months underground in London – I wouldn't have it any other way!

Brains: I spend so much time underground that I'd probably find a much less interesting tunnel and sit under there for a while. At a push, I'd sit under a bridge. But a tunnel is preferable.

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