The Old Vic Tunnels – the cult arts venue that has hosted successful gallery shows, performances by award-winning actors and even a former US President – is to close.
The popular site beneath Waterloo station in London is to shut after This Old Vic, which was the main backer, shifted the funding to its principal operation.
The venue inside 25,000 square metres of disused tunnels, designed to interest the “Facebook, two-minute-video generation”, launched in 2009 and was overseen by the Old Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey. The tunnels were discovered by chance by Hamish Jenkinson, the director of the facility, after he was invited to view graffiti art showing a tunnel nearby and “kicked down a door”.
Events at the tunnels have included a Michelin-starred pop-up restaurant, exhibitions by gallery owner Steve Lazarides, screenings of Banksy’s movie Exit Through the Gift Shop, and a performance of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It was also used for a fundraiser by former US President Bill Clinton.
A source close to the organisation said the space was “always meant to be temporary”. Tom Copley, a member of the London Assembly investigating how small theatres can remain viable, said: “It’s a dreadful shame that the tunnels are closing. It’s a unique venue. This is quite a bad sign; will it be a precursor for small venues being under threat?”