It’s been two weeks since the biggest arts festival in London shut its doors for another year. Over eight marathon weeks, 350 shows by 1,500 artists played 3,500 performances to over 70,000 people. Those are quite some statistics!

Here at Miro, we featured 60 shows in a variety of profiles, spotlights and interviews. We also reviewed 42 productions over the course of the eight weeks – 102 pieces in total. A huge thanks to the six contributors that made the trip down into those rainy, damp, dark subterranean caverns to witness an incredible variety of  works in progress, productions on tour and success stories from Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017:

“People constantly ask me, what can I do to help my show do well?” comments one of the festival directors, Mat Burt. “There isn’t a mathematical answer to that, but the thing that we’ve learnt over the last few years is that it’s companies who support each other who increase their audience.”

Vault Festival 2018

Mat Burt

Burt is one of the many faces of the festival – as Director of Communications, he is the one that marketing, and press, are most likely to engage with. But the beauty of VAULT Festival is that the whole enterprise has a completely collaborative feeling about it – from the directors, to the festival staff and volunteers, to the theatre companies and the audience themselves, there is a general atmosphere of camaraderie and celebration:

“At the moment, there’s me, Tim and Andy with the director title. But in terms of the work done to make this, we are a micro-part of it along with everybody else. It’s so much bigger than us now as people – learning that involves releasing control and letting go a little bit. I want everybody to be slightly over supported.”

“My idea of success for the festival would be having a show programmed at VAULT means that it will sell out. It gets to that point where enough people are interested in the festival, the shows are known to be of a good standard… That’s a few years down the road, but I think it’s possible if we know how to talk to our audience properly.”

As soon as it stops being a festival where we feel we can give more attention to artists than other places, it’s not VAULT Festival anymore.

Vault Festival 2018

It’s a big ambition, but given the projections over the last few festivals, it seems entirely possible. Between 2017 and this year, audiences have increased by 40%; they had only increased by 25% from the two preceding. In addition, the average attendance per show has remained the same – around 60% – indicating that putting on more shows has not affected the overall capacity for VAULT.

It seems then that Burt’s dream is to increase show capacity over growing the festival again i.e. making it longer or bigger:

“One of the main drivers for growing is the amount of people that we want to do stuff here. This year, we got double the amount of applications than we had last year, which means inevitably we’re saying no more than we’re saying yes. At the same time, we have to make sure that the quality of the opportunity stays the same. That means if we’re overstretching our staff, overstretching our audiences, then it doesn’t work.”

“We feel going bigger again next year would be a stretch too far. It’s that quality of opportunity that’s essential. If something happened that meant we had less financial mobility, we would deliberately make it [the VAULT Festival] smaller – I’d rather it happened and remained good than became big and soulless. As soon as it stops being a festival where we feel we can give more attention to artists than other places, it’s not VAULT Festival anymore.”

It’s that quality of opportunity that’s essential

Vault Festival 2018

Marking the quality of the shows is at the core of VAULT Festival’s mission statement, which includes the commitment to ‘create the most accessible platform for creators to innovate, collaborate, explore and achieve and through which audiences can discover the bravest and boldest artistry.’ To recognise such quality, the VAULT Festival held an Awards Ceremony at the end of its eight-week long programme, celebrating productions in such categories as ‘Show of The Week’, ‘Origins Award’ and ‘People’s Choice.’

We at Miro decided to award our own Shows of the Week in our weekly round-ups. Our VAULT Festival Shows of the Week are:

Week 1: Great Again: The Musical

Week 2: Madonna Or Whore

Week 3: Think Of England

Week 4: I Have A Mouth And Will Scream

Week 5: Sparks

Week 6: Glitter Punch

Week 7: People Who Need People

Week 8: Lock And Key

“We’re finally at the point where we can think about future years,” comments Burt. “The festival doesn’t generate enough money to pay for itself in perpetuity – each year it’s covered its own back. Of course, we have goodwill; it’s easier for us to go to the investors. As long as we make it a good experience for our audiences and artists still want to do it, there’s no reason it can’t continue now.”

Of course, we couldn’t put out VAULT Festival shows through the spotlight without quizzing a VAULT director in the same way! So, as our actual final Spotlight feature (with a couple of added questions thrown in for good measure), I caught up with director Mat Burt:

Describe VAULT Festival 2018 in three words.

Heart-breaking. Emotional. Kindness.

Who or what are your inspirations?

Elaine Page is an inspiration because she is a fantastic talent, a cracking laugh that borders on the irritating. She’s on the biggest radio station in the country for two hours a week and she does the ‘Break A Leg’ segment where she gets amateur dramatic companies and local theatres to call in and advertise their shows. That’s brilliant! There’s no tone of being patronising or disparaging there, it’s a real joy in other people finding something to like.

My personal inspiration is my mum. She taught me there is real joy in helping other people achieve what they want. I was frustrated for the first couple of years when this took off because I used to make a lot of theatre and switched quite quickly into doing a lot of spreadsheets and help other people do their theatre. I realised that I wasn’t letting myself enjoy what I was doing and needed to change my mindset.

Being a smaller footnote in other people’s stories is an incredible privilege and it brings me so much happiness.

Vault Festival 2018

What is the best show that you’ve seen in the last year, outside VAULT festival?

Flesh and Bone at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017. I thought they were really excellent. I saw a lot of great stuff at Edinburgh, but we brought a lot of it here, so I can’t mention it!

What is one of the weirdest memories of this year’s VAULT festival?

The Rock tweeting about the festival was a classic moment – as soon as he tweeted we were planning the welcome party. Uber booking all those tickets was funny too – that happened ages ago. We weren’t quite sure what that was about.

You seem to have the perfect playlist for the festival. Who picks the music?

The playlist has evolved since the second year – it gets added to as things come in. Tim and I are big Billy Joel fans; Andy and I are big Ke$ha fans, Kelly Clarkson is also a must. Daffyd Gough, our Head of Sound, is technically the man in charge and he actually knows about proper music, so he’ll put things on that people actually want.

 

 

A huge thanks to Mat Burt, Andy George & Tim Wilson; all the festival staff and volunteers; all the theatre companies, and all our readers for joining us on our VAULT Festival 2018 journey!

For more information about VAULT Festival 2018, please visit the website.