Binge Fringe Magazine

OPINION: The future of VAULT Festival, and all of the arts, is at the mercy of corporate landlordism. We can’t afford to lose what we have.

VAULT Festival are seeking to fundraise £150,000 to secure the future of the festival after their venue-landlord decided to look at “other more commercial projects” going forward.

It’s a common misconception that VAULT Creative Arts, the company who programme, curate and run VAULT Festival, and ‘The Vaults’ are the same entity. In fact, the venues which we all know and love that snake underneath the railway tracks of Waterloo Station are owned by an entirely separate company. The precarity of this situation has now been brought to bare, as the Festival faces eviction from its longstanding home.

First and foremost, VAULT Festival needs to be supported going forward. VAULT Creative Arts have launched a campaign called #SaveVAULT which seeks to raise the money needed to secure the Festival’s future before the close of this year’s VAULT Festival on the 19th March. The money will be used to support the organisation through its transition and their search for a new home for the Festival. VAULT Festival Director and Co-Founder Andy George said, of the campaign, “Over the past three years, as we’ve battled to survive through cancellations, postponements and a pandemic, it’s become extremely clear that the creative industry needs VAULT Festival to thrive and the artists we champion need VAULT Festival to springboard their careers.”

“We can only survive if we receive support, and I’m asking for your help. Help us make this the end of a chapter, not the end of VAULT Festival. Help us save VAULT!”. He added. The Festival has long championed early career artists from underrepresented backgrounds, and their departure from the current, iconic premises will mark a shift for the London arts scene. Characteristically forward-thinking, George and the VAULT Creative Arts team are focused on what happens next rather than the predicament that has seen them leave their current home. And if you can donate, you simply must. The campaign has set up a fundraiser on the Givey platform asking for crowdsourced donations.

Corporate landlordism is at the root of the issue here, a scourge which has pervaded similar festivals such as the Edinburgh Fringe for decades. I’m not pointing this out to defame any particular landlord, but to highlight that our battle for the arts is systemically broken by a system built on greed and an unsustainable cycle of price-hiking. Fringe creativity is a public good – cultural capital that belongs to all of us, and it’s being defaced by a classist system of private exploitation.

As we see accommodation rental quotes for two bed apartments at Edinburgh Fringe pass £30,000 (yes, really) for the month, in tandem Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSAs) which could be leveraged to relieve the issue remain unaffordable for most performers. Now too, we see the issue pervade the very top level of Fringe arts programming in London. Corporate landlordism is extracting the wealth from the arts, leveraging its position as a neo-feudal power to decimate the chances of success of underdog artists, performers and now even festivals, by wiping their bank accounts clean. The alternative – oblivion. This situation is not down to individuals, but the confines of a market economy that solely values the extraction of wealth as an indicator of value of cultural institutions.

VAULT Festival must be supported in their quest for a new home, but at the same time we must ensure that these same circumstances are not allowed to be repeated. Top-level arts venues should be brought into public ownership, to protect the cultural capital that belongs to all of us, not just a priviliged elite who can provide copious amounts of wealth to protect their bottom line. Accommodation prices for artists should be capped to provide for their basic living standards as they enrich our streets with their beautiful art. The bottom line of the most underpriviliged artist, show or Festival is the bottom line of our collective cultural wealth. And we just can’t afford to lose what we have.

Jake Mace

Our Lead Editor & Edinburgh Editor. Jake loves putting together reviews that try to heat-seek the essence of everything they watch. They are interested in New Writing, Literary Adaptations, Musicals, Cabaret, and Stand-Up. Jake aims to cover themes like Class, Nationality, Identity, Queerness, and AI/Automation.

Festivals: EdFringe (2018-2023), Brighton Fringe (2019), Paris Fringe (2020), VAULT Festival (2023), Prague Fringe (2023-24), Dundee Fringe (2023)
Pronouns: They/Them
Contact: jake@bingefringe.com