Spotlight On: New Wimbledon Theatre

An iconic landmark in Wimbledon Town Centre for over 100 years, New Wimbledon Theatre was forced to close last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and has recently re-opened with a stellar line-up of performances including musicals, comedy, family entertainment, dance, drama and their upcoming legendary annual pantomime.

The theatre is also home to the Studio, where you can watch epic entertainment from new writers, comedians and producers in an intimate setting. Offering a wide range of performances to enjoy up close and personal, from comedy to drama and three topical new shows from hot writers this season.

We chatted with Nick Parr, Theatre Director, to find out more about their big return!

Tell us a little bit about New Wimbledon Theatre and the Studio.
The New Wimbledon Theatre opened on Boxing Day 1910 with our first ever panto, Jack and Jill. With over 1,600 seats, we’ve welcomed some of the biggest stars of stage and screen over the years. We’ve also become a popular filming location, and you may spot us in some of your favourite films and TV shows. The Studio is a great 80 seat black box theatre where we are able to host the best in comedy, new writing and our very own Fringe festival #FromTheFringe which will return in 2022.

How does it feel to re-open after such a long time?
It’s great to be back, we believe this is the longest closure the theatre has ever gone through – 503 days. It first closed during WW2 for a brief period around 1940, and then again when there was a change in management. We’ve got a great programme of shows, bringing Wimbledon the best of the West End in the main house, and some great new writing in the Studio with our Premieres season. The team here can’t wait to get back to doing what we do best.

What upcoming shows are a must-see?
We have a wealth of shows direct from the West End including Jersey Boys, School of Rock and Dreamgirls. We will also be rocking out with Bat Out of Hell and We Will Rock You.

What can we expect from this year’s panto?
Lots of laughs! Shane Richie stars as Dick Whittington and we cannot wait to have panto back after missing it in 2020. The ultimate magical pantomime adventure.

How have things changed since Covid-19?
We are operating paperless with e-tickets becoming the norm. There has been no change in capacity and we have been so pleased to welcome our audiences back in a safe way. To ensure the continued safety of our visitors and staff, currently, all attendees over the age of 18 will be required to provide proof of their COVID-19 status to gain entry to the venue. You can find out more on our website.

 

Check out our What’s On pages for more performances and shows by New Wimbledon Theatre and remember to support our local arts in their return. #LoveLocal 

Wimbledon’s Rainbow Crossing Returns!

Wimbledon’s Rainbow Crossing Gets A New Look!

The UK’s first rainbow crossing was created in Wimbledon Town Centre in 2019 by Merton Council and Love Wimbledon BID. After a short break, the crossing has returned with a slightly different look and even more colour.

Situated outside New Wimbledon Theatre, the crossing, which acts as a symbol to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, now features an updated ‘Progress Pride’ flag to include representation for black and trans pride. Delivered by Merton Council, this will be the first rainbow crossing in London with the new design – the chevron of black and brown stripes to represent people of colour, with blue, pink and white stripes to represent trans people. The white also symbolises those who have been lost to HIV/AIDS, and the chevron points to the right to show forward movement, indicating progress.

The crossing has been relocated to a new location 50m west of The Broadway, after the entrance space outside the theatre was extended to create a new public space.

As well as providing a welcoming diversity message, the crossing offers colourful joy to schoolchildren, shoppers and culture-lovers who are passing by. It acts as a celebratory reminder for Wimbledon’s first LGBTQ+ bar CMYK, home to great queer DJs and drag entertainment located just a brief walk away from the crossing.

Helen Clark Bell, Chief Executive of the Love Wimbledon BID, commented:

We’re very glad to see the rainbow crossing return to Wimbledon, with a new and more inclusive design to represent the broader LGBTQ+ community. As well as creating a warm welcome to all, the crossing contributes to the growing arts and cultural scene in Wimbledon and is an absolute joy to see.

Merton Council delivered the crossing with FM Conway Contractors.

To find more hidden gems in Wimbledon’s cultural scene, including innovative street art and architectural secrets, click here.

YMCA Wimbledon Redevelopment Begins

On Friday 23rd July, YMCA Wimbledon welcomed local stakeholders to an exciting ground-breaking celebration to mark the beginning of works to redevelop the site.

In December 2020, plans were approved by Merton Council’s Planning Committee, to transform the existing YMCA Wimbledon premises into a new state-of-the-art YMCA building, alongside an adjoining development of 135 new homes and two new commercial units at ground floor.

The redevelopment, led by YMCA St Paul’s Group and their development partner Thornsett, will enable YMCA to continue their work in the borough, which has been ongoing for the past 150 years, and to deliver wider benefits to the community.

Computer Generated Image of the new YMCA Wimbledon

The current building requires urgent modernisation. The scheme will provide 121 hostel rooms with en-suite bathrooms and cooking facilities, to help give residents a better quality of life and support them back into independent living. YMCA residents and the Wimbledon community will also benefit from new and improved, affordable facilities, including a gym, bigger studio space for fitness classes, a children’s area and brand-new YMCA café. The adjoining development residential development is expected to help address an under-provision of homes suitable for first time buyers in the borough.

Image of YMCA prior to redevelopment

Commenting on the commencement of construction, Councillor Eleanor Stringer, Joint Deputy Leader of Merton Council and Cabinet Member for Children and Education:

“I am delighted to be able to mark the start of a new future for the YMCA in the borough. It is exciting to see work begin to provide enhanced accommodation for vulnerable young people locally and to offer facilities that will benefit the whole community, as well as much-needed new homes.”

Richard James, CEO of YMCA St Paul’s Group, added:

“This is an extremely exciting moment for YMCA St Paul’s Group, our residents and the local community, as we break ground on the new YMCA Wimbledon. Our vision is to create places where young people thrive and communities flourish and this new state-of-the-art YMCA building will enable just that. We’re grateful to the local residents, Merton Council, Thornsett, Neilcott and Councillor Stringer for their support of this important development.”

Construction is expected to be complete by 2025. Find out more here.

 

Wimbledon Pie Bake-Off

To celebrate their re-opening and the opening gala performance: Waitress the Musical, New Wimbledon Theatre, are inviting you to enjoy a slice of pie at the judging day of their local pie contest.

Thursday 2nd September on The Piazza (outside Morrison’s): event from 12pm with final judging at 3pm.

Pies will be available for sampling after the final judging.

Businesses in Wimbledon Town Centre and their employees, will be putting their baking skills to the test and competing to find out who can reign supreme!

The contest is centred around protagonist Jenna, of musical comedy Waitress, who creates some wild and wonderful pie creations, such as Marshmallow Mermaid Pie, Pineapple Upside Down Pie and A Little Wild Wild Berry Pie.

Competing for a special gift and tickets to the show, businesses will be judged against categories such as: best looking pie, most inventive ingredients, best themed pie, and lots more.

So head down to The Piazza on Thursday 2nd September from 12pm to join in on the fun, and get your tickets for the show here.

 

About the Show

Meet Jenna, a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of some happiness in her life. When a hot new doctor arrives in town, life gets complicated. With the support of her workmates Becky and Dawn, Jenna overcomes the challenges she faces and finds that laughter, love and friendship can provide the perfect recipe for happiness.

 

Polka Theatre Re-opens

Following a major refurbishment, Polka Theatre will begin to re-open from 16th August with a host of free activities for everyone.

 

Polka Theatre, the UK’s first theatre designed specifically for 0-12 year olds, is re-opening its doors with an exciting season of new productions and free activities for the whole family this August. Following its two-and-a-half-year closure, Polka will once again be bringing world class family theatre and creative learning activities to London.

The new state-of-the-art and eco-friendly building now houses two auditoriums: the flexible Adventure Theatre, which is the first purpose-built UK theatre for under 6s, and the fully refurbished Main Theatre, with new seating and decoration. The completely revitalised venue will provide unrivalled facilities for families and schools, including:

  • An indoor play space in the new Y C Chan Play Den
  • A sensory garden
  • A playground with a bespoke treehouse climbing frame
  • A large and airy café
  • A dedicated rehearsal and community space called The Nest
  • A purpose-built, interactive sensory suite designed for use by children with sensory and special educational needs, installed in the new Clore Learning Studio.
  • Improved accessibility has also been greatly, including level access to the stage for performers and children for the first time.

To kick off Polka’s opening season, the theatre have unveiled three brilliant productions that will be performed in the new building from 25 September.

  • RED
    An exciting visual and physical storytelling production with British Sign Language. Journey through forests and swamplands as you help search for RED and missing Queen Sukotai. But watch out for those sleeping wolves!

    Running Sat 25 Sep – Sun 31 Oct, perfect for ages 6+.
  • Cinderella: the AWESOME truth
    Think you know the story of Cinderella? Think again. Cindy and Ella are the REAL ugly sisters and they couldn’t be more different. When they meet a fairy godmother who’s not what she seems it’s up to Ella to save her sister before the clock strikes 12. Join us for a magical topsy-turvy adventure, we’re going to have a ball!
    Running Fri 12 Nov – Sun 30 Jan, for ages 5+
  • The Night before Christmas
    Bringing Christmas Eve to life in this festive production with original music, puppets and Polka magic. Meet 6 year old Amber (who really loves reindeers), her grumpy grandad and a surprise visitor who turns Amber’s world topsy-turvy.
    Running Sat 4 Dec – Sun 16 Jan, perfect for children aged 3 – 7.

In the meantime, until 28th August, the Polka team are setting up shop in Centre Court Shopping Centre with a new pop-up theatre space. Maanika and The Wolf is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, perfect for 3-6 year olds. The pop-up production blends the past and the present, the real and the imagined, as a grandmother returns to her childhood bedroom recalling stories from when she was a young girl. Talking to her granddaughter over Zoom, she brings her Indian dressing-up box back to life and re-enacts her own version of Little Red Riding Hood. But why is there another wolf on the phone and why does her granddaughter Ruby keep trying to change the story?

Polka Theatre will reopen to the public from Monday 16th August and offer a range of free activities for young children, including hands-on creativity in the newly planted Wimbledon Foundation Garden and the multi-sensory space, as well as lively and interactive story sessions. It will also host Polka’s Freefalling group, made up of children who face challenging circumstances at home or at school, a Youth Theatre summer school, and research and development sessions with Polka artists. Continuing to pioneer children’s theatre and creative learning in the UK, Polka aims to use their new building to continue to inspire young audiences, school groups and families in and around the local community and beyond.

For all Polka activities, workshops and shows, visit our What’s On page and filter by ‘kids’.

 

Wimbledon’s First Breathe Café

Do you ever find yourself seeking a place where you can retreat and take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life? Somewhere you can take a deep breath, eat nourishing food and find some support?

Local healthy eating café Lu-Ma have collaborated with mental health charity, Shawmind, to open the first ‘Breathe Café’ in Wimbledon Town Centre.

The concept of a Breathe Café, was created by mental health charity Shawmind, and is a safe space where the public can go and read books in the wellbeing library, connect with a volunteer and find resources to help support them. Breathe Cafés are not clinics or therapy sessions, and volunteers provide signposting and active listening support only – it does not replace the advice of a mental health professional. The idea stems from the notion that early intervention in this way, can help head off more serious mental health challenges in individuals in the future.

Maria Jessiman, co-owner of the family-run café added:

“We look forward to opening a space where people can feel seen, heard and valued without judgement. All our food is created with the purpose to help keep the mind and body in balance. We are proud to be creating a hub in the heart of Wimbledon to help support our community in other ways. We know how much mental health and wellbeing matters, especially after the past year.”

The plant-based healthy food café Lu-Ma, was born out of a desire to provide a hub in the heart of Wimbledon to help support the physical and mental wellbeing of the community. Mental health has always been something close to Maria and her family’s heart. This new initiative adds another dimension to the café which has previously held wellbeing events, meditations and courses, and looks to continue to do more in the future.

You can find a well-being library, resources and a volunteer trained in active listening, all within the café – located at 43 Worple Road, Wimbledon, SW19 4JZ. Simply scan the QR code which is visible throughout the venue. To find out more click here.

Spotlight On: imm Thai Fusion

Bringing authentic Thai food to the Wimbledon community for six consecutive years, we sat down with the owner of local independent restaurant imm Thai Fusion, Siri, to find out more about the team behind the dishes and the adventurous menu that they have planned for the summer, as the restaurant’s anniversary fast approaches.

imm Thai Fusion started in August 2015 with an intention to bring authentic Thai food (and neighbouring dishes) to the community, with a value for money. They offer a comforting space where customers can enjoy fragrant foods and thirst-quenching drinks, whilst the team offers a nurturing platform which showcases the skills and passion of team members, for the betterment of our society.

You’re approaching your 6th anniversary. How did you choose Wimbledon to open your first restaurant?

Wimbledon is a charming and versatile English town. It enjoys a global reputation and yet when you are in the place you can feel a strong sense of local community and friendly buzz. The area has superb business prospects and offers the chance to meet lovely people, from all walks of life.

 

Where does the name ‘imm Thai Fusion’ come from?

‘imm’ means full in Thai and is a common adjective used to describe fulfilment in the body and the heart. The meaning of imm aligns with our intention for customers to leave our restaurant ‘full’ in their experience and not just in their stomachs. The word “Fusion” at the end allows us to extend our creativity into combining a Thai cooking style with dishes from neighbouring countries like Vietnam, Laos, or even Japan in Thai style. Our food is designed to meet and exceed the expectations for authentic Thai.

What is the dining experience that you aim to give guests at imm Thai Fusion?

Good food that provides energy and comfort, served with genuine hospitality. Simple happiness in daily life.

Tell us about your specialty dish/dishes.

Our fish dishes tend to be popular – especially the steamed seabass/cod loin in ginger and soya sauce. Those who like intense flavour can opt for the same fish, but pan fried and served with tamarind sauce. Our simple stir fried vegetable dishes are also becoming increasingly popular.

What’s new on the menu this summer?

Well, we’ve tried to be adventurous this year. Our chefs will be serving famous dishes from different parts of Thailand, that are a little more on the daring side, e.g. a whole golden pomfret fish – with the head and tail! This is way that the fish is traditionally served in Thailand, which may come to as a surprise to British people, but to me it brings back nostalgic thoughts of a warm breeze, clear beaches, and the sound of the sea.

#LoveLocal and visit imm Thai Fusion at 162 The Broadway, Wimbledon, SW19 1RX.

 

Rediscover more brilliant independent restaurants like this in Wimbledon via our Town Centre Map and get to know the friendly faces behind the food, first-hand.

Flowers Can Talk

Flowers Really Do Talk!

We all love a flower, especially in Wimbledon Town Centre, and increasing the amount of planting is a great way to bring in life, colour, nature and biodiversity. But what if there was something different to a flower bed? What if the plants could grow from a lamppost? And what if the plants could tell you when they needed watering?

Business Improvement District Love Wimbledon thought we would give it a go, after local urban greening company Scotscape contacted us about their new LivingPillar™.

A new vertical LivingPillar™ has been created in Wimbledon Town Centre, acting as a trial,  the first of its kind in South London. Packed with petunias, 84 of them and very much part of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships colour theme, the new Living Pillar™ has an irrigation system which runs on solar power using a high efficiency solar panel (at the top of the pillar) to recharge the systems battery source. Better still, it features a monitor which enables water management remotely via an App, whereby the plants are reporting when they are about to run out of water as the tank becomes empty. Scotscape monitors this and when the plants need some water and the reservoir needs topping up, it gets done! The technology ensures zero water is wasted, as any excess irrigation water is recycled.

Helen Clark Bell CEO of Love Wimbledon commented:

‘We initially set out to improve the neglected flower bed outside Evans Cycle so worked with Merton Council to get the wooden bench refurbished and the retaining wall repointed. Scotscape approached us and offered to overhaul the bed, providing new plants for the flowerbeds. We had heard of Scotscape’s innovative lamppost solution; this was the perfect place to trial a Living Pillar™ in Merton. Future planting will include air scrubbing plants helping to improve the air quality whilst also making the town greener.  Where space is limited, horizontal planting provides a very different opportunity and where tree planting is restricted, planted posts and pillars offer a  space-saving solution as well as a visual treat.’

During installation of the pillar

Angus Cunningham, CEO of Scotscape added:

‘Scotscape and Love Wimbledon have aligned thoughts on improving places and spaces through planting, By introducing sustainable planting and biodiversity in tricky locations, the Living Pillar™ will do a little bit more to help with air quality and longer term the app should enable us to measure air quality in the area as well as keep our plants watered when they ask!’

 
The Evans flowerbed before and after refurbishment

Businesses are already talking about the improvements:

‘Many thanks to Love Wimbledon BID for transformation of a neglected flowerbed, into something sustainable, and great to look at.’

– Manager, Wibbas Down Inn

 

And that’s not all, bird, bee and insect boxes will be installed in the autumn, with the planting undergrowth acting as the perfect refuge for urban wildlife and insects. The Petunias will be replaced with plant species carefully selected for their seasonal pollen and nectar production, as well as their ability to remove polluting particulate matter from air.

The LivingPillar™ can  be found in front of Evans Cycles on Gladstone Road in Wimbledon Town Centre.

Wimbledon Town Centre Survey

We would like your help to answer a short survey about Wimbledon Town Centre. This survey is confidential, and every response will help to make improvements in our town.

We have provided plenty of text boxes for you to add additional comments, so even if we haven’t asked the right question please tell us your thoughts and ideas.

Click here to complete our survey.

How to spend Father’s Day in Wimbledon

As Father’s Day approaches this Sunday 20th June, we’ve put together practical, useful gift ideas for every type of Dad, with presents that he will actually use.

Give him a gift that he definitely won’t forget. The unique experience of Cryotherapy at The F.I.T Partnership will leave your dad feeling amazing physical and mental benefits of a 2-3 minute session in freezing temperatures (-110 degrees celsius). Particularly effective on those who have migraines, chronic pain, inflammatory conditions, such as psoriasis or arthritis, and so much more. Add some adventure to his health routine and give him a chilly treat!

     

Show your appreciation over a cold brew, by treating your father to a meal at healthy eating cafe Lu-Ma, Pizza Express or cosy pub The Old Frizzle, where dads receive a complimentary pint of beer, ale or larger. ⁠Or treat Dad to brunch, lunch or dinner with great indulgent burgers like the Mighty Block Burger at Bar + Block Steakhouse, or a crispy Buttermilk Chicken Burger at Bill’s. Both venues are family-friendly so you can turn it into a family affair for all, including the young and hungry. Choose to celebrate at Grilandia and dad will receive a complimentary special dessert.

Put a smile on his face with an advanced ticket for a night of comedy at New Wimbledon Theatre, or check out Elys Father’s Day Gift Edit which includes great gift inspiration like a whiskey tumbler set and 007 dry martini truffles. A home-made gift can be a thoughtful surprise – why not try your hand at baking some Father’s Day cookies or his favourite cake, with great kitchenware at Lakeland, or if he’s the BBQ king, give him a present that will make him feel like charring royalty. Gift him the perfect summer drink with a great selection of wines, spirits and beers from Majestic Wine – a great accompaniment to a feast in his honour.

     
Whether you’re giving a gift or going for an experience this Father’s Day, remember to #ThinkLocal and shop from local businesses in Wimbledon, who need our ongoing support through this pandemic. Click here for Things To Do in Wimbledon.