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VAULT Festival cancelled over omicron fears

VAULT Festival has announced the cancellation of the 2022 event, becoming the third edition in a row to be impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Organisers of the London-based performing arts festival said they were not able to devise a plan to stage this year’s event without subjecting staff and artists to “months of stress, uncertainty, and insurmountable financial vulnerability” because of the spread of the omicron variant.

The festival was due to be held from January 25 to March 20 in venue spaces across Waterloo station, featuring more than 600 shows comprising theatre, comedy, immersive experiences and cabaret.

The most recent full edition in 2019 featured more than 3,000 performances and welcomed more than 75,000 patrons across eight weeks. 2022 was supposed to be the 10th anniversary edition of the festival, following the cancellation of the 2021 event and the truncation of the 2020 staging.

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

“We have worked hard over the past 21 months to recover from the devastation caused by the lost week of 2020’s Festival and the full postponement of 2021, towards delivering the safest, fullest, and best version of VAULT Festival 2022 – our 10th anniversary year – which was set to be our most exciting festival to date.

“The challenges posed by Covid-19 have been at the forefront of our planning throughout our preparations and we’ve undertaken extensive scenario planning in order to be able to deliver a safe, welcoming, and celebratory event that could overcome them. It is with broken hearts that we make this statement.”

Organisers said they are working hard to support and minimise the financial impact on artists, and said all existing ticket bookers will be contacted by email.

They added: “We ask for your patience while we turn our focus to supporting our staff and artists, and we ask that you continue to treat each other with kindness, respect, and love as we face this challenge together.”

Ahead of the 2022 festival, organisers had installed and improved ventilation systems in the spaces at Waterloo, while audiences were to be required to show an NHS Covid Pass to access all venues and bars.

Image: The Heritage Arts Company