Programming Policy


This policy outlines our approach to selecting the artistic works we present. It is publicly available on our website with the goal of laying out our artistic ambitions, criteria, and processes to everyone as openly & transparently as possible.

Artistic Ambitions

Our goal is to create a high quality programme of bold and innovative shows that are stylistically and narratively varied, that showcase underrepresented artists & stories and gives them space to thrive, and which will attract an audience with the widest range of interests and demographics possible and inspire them to fill their lives with creativity.

We programme across a wide spectrum of live performance styles; including all kinds of theatre, comedy, musicals, clowning, cabaret, burlesque, circus, drag, opera, podcasts, dance, escape rooms, huge parties, immersive experiences, tech-driven hybrid shows, and things we haven’t thought of yet.

We aim to keep the programme creatively fresh and exciting. We’re interested in work that is pushing the boundaries of live performance, telling stories that haven’t been heard before, and affecting positive change in the world.

We programme work that is relevant for now. We programme work that is political – both directly and indirectly. We programme artists who are underrepresented in the arts sector. We give a platform to voices & stories that haven’t been heard before. We programme work that is fun & entertaining. We want a programme where something can be fun AND representative, entertaining AND showcasing an “unheard” voice.

By doing so, we hope to provide the opportunity for early, mid-career, and more established artists to showcase and try out new work, hone their skills, and give them the space, support, and courage to try, fail, and succeed, brilliantly.

Programming Strategies

We want our programming to be fair and accessible. We programme through the following ways:

• Open Applications. (around 80% of our programming)
Anyone can apply. There are no application fees. We take every application on its merits to ensure a fair and democratic process.
• Direct Invitations (around 15%)
We reach out to shows or artists to invite them to present work at the Festival
• Programming Partners & Awards (around 5%
We work with partners, venues, and organisations to co-programme specific slots through “takeovers” and our “Programming Awards”.

Artistic Criteria & Selection

We create curated festivals. This means our programming team explicitly chooses what will be in the programme. This is an inherently subjective, human-driven process, through which many aspects of a show & the applicant are taken into account. We create a framework in order to assess applications fairly.

Applications are reviewed by our Programming Panel which is led by our Head of Programming alongside Heads of Comedy and Late Night Programming, and a selected team of industry professionals. Every application is read by a minimum of two readers.

We assess applications based on the following criteria:

Concept & Form

• The concept of the show is the key ideas and narratives, and the form is how those ideas are communicated (style, approach, creative choices etc). Both the form & concept which lie at the heart of every show. We’re interested in concepts that challenge the status quo, especially from new or underrepresented perspectives and in forms that are innovative and push the boundaries of live performance.
— Is the concept and/or form interesting? Original? New? Important?
— Have the concept and form been communicated clearly by the applicant – do we have a good sense of what the show will be?
— Has the applicant demonstrated an understanding of the complexity of the issues, topics, or forms they’re exploring?
— What makes this show stand out from the crowd? Is the form pushing the boundaries of live performance? Is it from an interesting or new perspective?


• We look for evidence that the applicant can achieve what they’re laying out in their application to a high standard. This evidence can be shown in the attachment of scripts, reviews for previous or current shows, photo or video documentation of previous or current shows, music/song samples, websites, trailers, and biogs of the team and partners involved.
— Is there evidence that the show will be delivered to a high quality?
— Has the applicant demonstrated the understanding of the importance of having a good team on board?
— Is the team involved exciting? Have they got past experience of doing shows, undergone training, or given us something about themselves that would suggest they have something exciting to share?
— Does the team fit within the ethos and spirit of the festival?


• We want to present a representative and diverse programme – both in the artists presenting as well as the stories being told.
• We consider the authenticity of a story and the perspective it’s being told from when considering whether something is truly representative.
• Our view on representation is intersectional. We acknowledge the complex, cumulative effects of multiple forms of discrimination especially in the experiences of marginalised and under-represented individuals or groups.
• The demographics of artists & shows we are looking to actively represent are:
— Black & African Diaspora Led
— Asian Diaspora Led
— Migrant or Refugee Led
— Female-Led
— Led by or featuring disabled artists
— Working class Led
• We ask artists to self-identify – these questions in the form are optional.
• This does not mean that if applicants don’t fall into any of these categories, they won’t be programmed.
• (“Led” for us means the lead artist or decision makers or the majority of the team in ensembles).


• We want the festival to be a useful and important platform for artists & shows to develop in a meaningful way; a springboard to hone skills, develop careers, and have the space to take creative risks.
— Will a run with us allow the artists and/or show to develop in a meaningful way?
— Are we the right place for this show and the artists involved? Could they have a similar experience elsewhere?
— Will the team and show fit into the ethos and spirit of the festival in a kind and collaborative way?


• It’s important that we have confidence that there is an audience for the show and that the applicant has provided evidence that they understand who their target audience are and how to effectively reach them.
— Has the applicant provided evidence of a marketing plan or an indication that they know how they’d approach it finding & securing an audience?
— Is there an audience for this show and/or applicant? Will people book tickets to see this?
— For applicants without an existing London audience, has the applicant provided additional evidence or reassurance that they understand the harder challenge they will face in finding an audience?
— Does this show tap into a new or existing audience that we haven’t reached yet or are looking to attract?

We favour applications which:

• Clearly communicate the concept and form their show will explore & take;
• Are telling a new story, from a new perspective, and/or pushing the boundaries of live performance;
• Have provided evidence to support the quality of their show;
• Have provided evidence of their experiences and/or their ability to create and stage the show successfully;
• Have identified a team and recognise the importance of a solid team to create a successful show.
• Have meaningfully considered representation in the composition of their team and the narratives being told;
• Have identified who their primary audience is and have provided evidence as to how they’ll reach & attract them;
• Will benefit from the opportunity of being part of the Festival to develop their skills, practice, or the show itself;
• Have considered the practicalities of staging a show at VAULT;
• Have sustainability, accessibility, and/or inclusion at their heart.

We respect ambition combined with deliverability. Often big ideas are the most exciting, but we need to know you’ve got your feet on the ground, too. If you’ve got huge ambitions, make sure to let us know you’ve considered all the challenges of presenting work at VAULT Festival.

We value entertainment and challenging work equally and do not believe the two are mutually exclusive. We’re lucky to have an engaged, thoughtful audience. Exciting work comes in all forms.

We appreciate VAULT-specific ideas. We like work which uses our unique venues and atmosphere as a strength. We want to know you’ve considered the quick turnarounds, the size of the venue & the challenges of the noise from the rumbling trains. If you have to compromise your idea too much to squeeze it into our framework, VAULT might not be the right place for it.

We veer away from applications which:

• Are stagings or revivals of a classic text (i.e. Shakespeare, Kafka, etc – unless it’s a radical adaptation).
• Haven’t demonstrated a rounded understanding of the wider conversation relating to issues they wish to explore.
• Have seemingly exhausted their London audience through other runs of the same show.

Programming Categories

We have thirteen broad programming categories, they don’t affect the likelihood of being programmed. The programming categories help us understand how you and your audience will see your show, how it will be categorised in our promotional materials, and which of our team will be the primary programmer for that show.

Musicals & Gig Theatre
Dance, Physical Theatre & Circus
Cabaret, Circus & Burlesque
Spoken Word & Poetry
Mixed Bill, Podcasts, & Variety
Performance Art, Live Art, & Installations
Live Music
Lates (Immersive or Themed Parties & Events)
Site Specific, Immersive, & Digital-Live Hybrid
Pop-Ups & Vehicle Venues
Show Content in Relation to Covid-19

If shows want to talk about the Pandemic, we will focus on programming work that has a positive impact and message and/or talks about an aspect of the pandemic that is not commonly experienced. We will veer away from shows that focus too heavily on the common experience of the pandemic. We would prefer shows that address the pandemic analogously rather than explicitly, though this is not a hard and fast rule.

Further Information
Inviting VAULT Staff to Performances

If you’d like to, you’re welcome to invite us to attend performances by emailing [email protected]. Due to our limited team and resources, we won’t be able to attend every performance but we’ll do our best.


We collect feedback from artists throughout their time with us. This feedback is important to help us review what we’re doing well, and form ideas on where we can keep improving.


We want every artist’s experience to be the best it can, we also recognise that sometimes it might not be. If you’re unhappy about a situation, please contact the Programming Team in the first instance to talk this through by emailing [email protected].

If this doesn’t resolve your concerns, we have an Artist-focussed complaints procedure which can be found in our Complaints Handling Policy.

Mixed Bill & “Takeover” Programming Policy


We want to create an inclusive, exciting, community-driven environment presenting a diverse range of art forms and voices. We expect the programming choices of anyone “sub-programming” within our programme to reflect that.

Artists presenting a “Mixed Bill” event or programming a “takeover” – whether stand up comedy, new writing scratch nights, music, spoken word, drama or panel-based shows – are asked & expected to follow our ethos and programming guidelines as outlined below.

Mixed Bill & “Takeover” Guidelines

Mixed bill events & Takeover Programming should seek to present a diverse lineup ensuring representation across race and gender is considered and met as a minimum.
We ask that you’re upfront about your representation aims with the acts you’re booking so they can make an informed decision on their involvement.

Booking of Acts

For fairness (and also to give your ticket sales the best chance possible), we ask that guest acts don’t do more than one mixed bill night per week at VAULT Festival. So please check this with the acts when you approach them.


Performers & participants should be paid or compensated fairly and equally. We appreciate that all events have different financial positions, so there is no minimum-fee guideline, but we expect you to make every reasonable effort to compensate contributors fairly.

If the event is a charity fundraiser, the act can choose to waive this payment but this should be agreed in advance of the gig rather than expected.


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