London live performance festival cancelled after Covid cases surge in the UK

This week, VAULT Festival cancelled its programme of over 600 theatre, comedy and live performance shows just three weeks before opening, due to surging Coronavirus cases.

The festival, which takes place in the vaults underneath Waterloo Station, was set to deliver an eight-week programme of events between January 25 and March 20.

But on Tuesday (January 4), when the cancellation was announced, the UK recorded more than 200,000 Coronavirus cases in a day – the highest ever recorded.

READ MORE: UK Covid epicentre no longer London as NHS announces critical incident due to Omicron

VAULT festival is an annual event which showcases the work of theatre, comedy and live entertainment artists.

Established in 2012 and run by non-profit organisation VAULT Creative Arts, its aim is to “effect positive change in the world and community we live in [and] work to make our community, industry, and world more accessible, more inclusive, more sustainable, and more welcoming through the work we do and present.”

This year was set to be the festival’s much-anticipated 10th anniversary, after having to cancel in 2021.

VAULT Festival is held in the vaults under Waterloo Station, where the rumbling of trains above can be heard

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The programme included more than 600 theatre, comedy, immersive experiences, cabaret, family shows and late night events, as well as presenting the 97 artists’ cancelled shows from 2021.

“We have made the gut-wrenching decision to cancel VAULT Festival 2022” wrote the festival organisers in a statement.

“Since the emergence of the Omicron variant, we’ve explored numerous options to still be able to deliver our 10th anniversary Festival safely and successfully, all of which were found to put our staff and artists at risk of being subjected to months of stress, uncertainty, and insurmountable financial vulnerability.

“We have to make brave and proactive decisions to prioritise and protect the mental health, wellbeing, and safety of our staff, artists, and audiences. We work with a lot of vulnerable people, for whom participating in the festival is no longer viable in light of the ongoing developments.”

The news has come as a blow to the thousands of artists who were gearing up to perform or present work at VAULT, and who have been hit hard by the pandemic.

Since the announcement on Tuesday, there has been a surge in support for people affected by the festival’s cancellation, with agents, venues, producers and other industry professionals extending offers to help.

Theatre critic Lyn Gardner wrote: “Great to see so many offers of advice and help from producers at all stages of their careers for the so many affected by the cancellation of VAULT Festival due to Covid.

“Sometimes the generosity of theatre folk makes my heart sing.”

Playwright and performer Natalia Lewis set up an online support session on 11th January, stating in the event description: “In light of the heart-breaking news regarding VAULT’s cancellation, I wanted to throw together a support session for creatives to see us through January.

“Super casual, just a chance to come together and commiserate and share advice with each other.”

Others have argued that the disproportionate impact of the festival’s closure on emerging artists is symptomatic of a larger problem.

Tarek Iskander, the Artistic Director and CEO of Battersea Arts Centre, argued on Twitter that there are “way too few opportunities for early career artists”, adding that these were even scarcer for those based outside London, or for people with protected characteristics.

Ticket holders for VAULT Festival are being contacted with the option to donate the value of their ticket or receive a refund.

Have you been affected by the cancellation of VAULT Festival? If so, please email [email protected]

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