Polka Theatre Redevelopment
Polka Theatre Redevelopment
It’s been almost a year since Polka Theatre temporarily closed to start work on a major redevelopment. Thanks to overwhelming local support, they finally look forward to reopening their doors in Spring 2021.
Where theatre begins…
For over 40 years Polka has been a central feature of Merton’s cultural landscape. A cherished landmark of the Wimbledon Broadway, it is an imaginative playground for children, a haven for parents and carers, and a vital resource for local schools and nurseries.
Polka specialises in world-class theatre for young audiences. In fact, it’s one of the few venues in the UK dedicated exclusively to children. Their busy programme of new plays, international work, musicals, and book adaptations designed to educate and inspire, runs year-round.
Polka also delivers an impressive range of educational and participatory activities for schools and community groups in the area. Their engagement work reaches over 18,000 children in Merton every year, flourishing creativity and ingenuity in the Borough.
For many children, Polka is where theatre begins.
A Building for everyone
The effects of the pandemic have been felt at Polka, with delays to reopening contributing to increased financial pressure. However, with thanks to commitment from Merton Council and overwhelming local support, they finally look forward to reopening in Spring 2021.
With state-of-the-art facilities and improved accessibility, Polka’s new-look space is a vibrant hub for the whole community. Highlights include new free-to-access outdoor and indoor play areas, a sensory garden and an extended destination café. The redevelopment also boasts a brand new 100-capacity Adventure Theatre – the first purpose-built theatre for children under 6 years in the UK.
Foster Wilson Architects, the leading practice behind Barbican Concert Hall and Norwich Theatre Royal, have redesigned Polka with children in mind. Working with stage designer Laura McEwen (The Everywhere Bear, Polka Theatre; The Singing Mermaid, Northampton Theatre Royal; Mirror Mirror, Red Earth Theatre) they have created an interactive wonderland for younger children and their families to enjoy.
Reducing the footprint
The redevelopment also focuses on the venue’s environmental impact, with improved energy efficiency throughout the building. Polka’s Young Voices, an advisory panel of 8-13 year olds, named reducing Polka’s carbon footprint as one of their top priorities for the new building.
The Polka team will encourage visitors to support other green changes around the building upon reopening, helping us all to do our bit in the fight against climate change.
Here for Merton
Executive Director and Joint CEO, Lynette Shanbury says:
“We’re hugely grateful to our audience and supporters who’ve stuck with us throughout this challenging year. We’ve been adapting our community programming month-by-month as things change quickly at the moment. We will continue to be flexible and ready to make our activities available however we can, whether live, online, or both. Our Community Working Group continuously checks we’re meeting on-the-ground need, and we’ve recently developed a mental health & wellbeing workshop for schools, which was featured on BBC Breakfast last month. Our weekly intergenerational community choir Re:Sound, run in partnership with Merton Music Foundation, continues to run online and we’re welcoming new members this term. We’re planning projects for our reopening that will involve a wide range of community members – we can’t wait to see everyone back at Polka.”