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Polka Theatre Re-opens

Following a major refurbishment, Polka Theatre will re-open on 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 3 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, from 29th July, 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.

To find out more, visit the Polka Theatre website here.

 

Love Wimbledon’s Response to the Local Plan

What is the Local Plan?

The Local Plan sets out a vision, strategy and a lot of planning detail for the London Borough of Merton with significant implications for Wimbledon Town Centre. The council are interested in business views as well as that of residents. 

  • It is created by the Borough Council (Merton) 
  • It is a development plan and is part of the governments planning system 
  • It sets out the strategic planning framework for 15 years in Merton 
  • It covers subjects such as new homes, healthy streets, transport, air quality, climate change, retail, office and industrial development 
  • Once adopted it supersedes all planning documents 

What do I need to do?  

The consultation closes on February 1st 2021. It is important that residents feed back by this date as the outputs from this document will be in place for fifteen years.

Read and respond to the Local Plan here.

Love Wimbledon’s Response

We are overall supportive of the essence of the plan and we stress that there must be a key focus on Wimbledon’s economy, jobs, development investment and growth to go hand in hand with improving the Wimbledon experience for all visitors whether local or international. The town centre must embrace an environmental strategy and play an integral role in helping to progress the careers of young people in the borough. These strands will support each other to maintain and improve Wimbledon’s vibrant economy and provide a bright future for the town and the borough.

Wimbledon is the economic heart of this borough and it needs to strive for growth to continue to provide that vitality, improving prospects for many. Working locally is likely to increase over the coming years, let us be in the position that people choose to have their business in Wimbledon, be proud of it and aid their success.

In the proposals we particularly support:  

1. Focus on quality design and placemaking  

The strategies to develop good quality and sustainable placemaking, active frontages of buildings, focus on public space, the pedestrian experience and exemplary design of buildings which will help create a better town centre.

2. Growth in business and culture 

It is important Wimbledon retains its status as a major centre and with a flexible strategy of innovation in workspaces, whether retail or office-based, this will allow the town centre to evolve to future changing times and challenges. Part of Wimbledon’s strength is its cultural offer which should remain part of the growth strategy. We support a focus on better quality and affordable workspace to support jobs, particularly for younger people and start-up businesses. Can developers be encouraged to provide a proportion of affordable workspace for a fixed period in new developments?

3. Focus on climate action 

This is an opportunity for all new developments to be some of the greenest of any London suburb; it is an opportunity to improve health and wellbeing whilst attracting more businesses. We would support the use of stronger language to deliver and provide, driving a higher expectation of action.  Suggest reference is made to the LETI standards for buildings.

4. Improving digital inclusion

To attract different businesses, Wimbledon Town Centre needs a comprehensive provision of super-fast fibre broadband to every commercial property.  We fully support objectives to deliver this.

5. Improving the station 

Even if Crossrail 2 doesn’t happen, the station is the gateway into Wimbledon and needs to reflect that, it needs improved access, better layout and a full refurbishment and rethink to its connectivity with the town centre. We need a station that is fitting for the international reputation of Wimbledon.

In addition: 

We would like to see the integration of a property owner’s charter into the Local Plan for Wimbledon Town Centre, which demands a relationship between the community and the owner contributing to the improved look and feel of empty properties including shops, managing construction hoardings, assisting with placemaking and attracting businesses into the town.

We see more of a focus needs to be placed on:

  • Arts, events and community facilities for the area / region, so appropriately sized, engaging and support the future as opposed to conference facilities
  • Additional weight improving the environmental credentials of the town centre: more vision, the greenest town centre in south west London or London, something we can all work to. Greening strategy needs to be proactive rather than responsive
  • Increased detail on how to tackle the issue of poor air quality, through traffic and noise
  • Improving cycling routes through the town centre and building linkages with Plough Lane
  • Provision of both retail and workplace space that is affordable and promotes new business
  • Developing a strategy for home workers and facilities for co-working environments
  • Giving creative solutions and strategies for improving the negative impact of delivery motorbikes on the town centre
  • Smaller high-quality boutique hotels – the hotel provision has increased significantly in recent years and the number of beds is now much higher

Wimbledon is in a strong position to become a superhub and attract a wide range of businesses. Our workplace portfolio needs flexibility, focus on health and wellbeing (eg terraces / roof gardens / opening windows), good quality public spaces; on buildings, next to buildings and in front of buildings. We would like the change to be from a car-focused town centre to a people-focused town centre, a place where people want to work, visit and enjoy, which will attract the new generation of emerging businesses. Wimbledon can retain its charm whilst developing growth and becoming a more attractive place for all types of office and high street businesses.

All future developments must be designed intelligently and sustainably to encompass the changes in the new emerging High Street and workplaces we are likely to see. Wimbledon requires commerce as part of its future economic and physical success, which will then positively contribute to the Wimbledon Town Centre becoming increasingly attractive for business, visitors, employees and residents further enhancing our 15-minute city attributes.

 

Michael McIntyre helps to raise over £30k for Polka Theatre

Michael McIntyre charms 600 Polka Theatre supporters with new material, helping to raise over £30k for Polka Theatre’s redevelopment.

Polka Patron and acclaimed comedian Omid Djalili presented a stellar line-up at the ‘Big Charity Comedy Night’, a fundraising event including Michael McIntyre, Dominic Holland, Tez Ilyas, Holly Morgan and Emma Sidi.

In the stunning Grand Hall at Battersea Arts Centre, audiences spent the evening hooting with laughter to Omid Djalili’s wild stories, hearing Dominic Holland’s pride in his ‘favourite’ Spiderman son and Holly Morgan (and her husband’s) married feminist double act with musical impressions from the world’s divas.

Polka Patron Omid Djalili MC’d the event, bringing on the evening’s headliner Michael McIntyre, who said: “It’s been brilliant supporting Polka. Good luck with the redevelopment! The audience has been fantastic and I’m glad I could help raise a significant sum for Polka.”

Peter Glanville, Polka’s Artistic Director reflected: “We have raised over £7 million to create a wonderland for children and families in the heart of Wimbledon and Merton. We are currently fundraising for the final £400k we need, so events like these are really helping us move forward with our target. Thank you to everyone for coming to the show and our amazing Patron Omid Djalili for making the Big Charity Comedy Night possible.”

The funds raised from this special, one-off comedy night were in aid of Polka’s redevelopment appeal. New planned features of the Polka Theatre will include the Adventure Theatre for 0-5’s, a free-to-all playground and interactive indoor display by set designer Laura McEwen.

 

 

About Future Polka

Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2019, Polka is the UK’s leading theatre for children up to the age of 12. The £7.5m redevelopment will be the first since the charity opened its doors back in 1979 and will ensure Polka remains at the forefront of children’s theatre for future generations, providing innovative, challenging and thought-provoking work for an increasingly culturally diverse young audience. The development includes a new Adventure Theatre specially designed for young children up to age 5, a new rehearsal and development studio, and a creative learning studio designed with particular reference to children with sensory needs, as well as improved access facilities.

 

Further information on Polka

Polka is one of the few theatres in the UK dedicated exclusively to children. Based in Wimbledon since 1979, Polka creates world-class theatre to entertain and inspire young audiences. Over 90,000 children visit Polka every year to experience engaging, fun and exciting theatre, often for the first time. We strive to spark the imagination, stir the emotions and fuel a sense of discovery in all children. Learning and participation is at the heart of Polka’s work, encouraging children to explore and develop creatively. We offer opportunities for all children, regardless of age, ability, culture or background, working in close partnership with schools, libraries, children’s centres, community associations and a range of other community organisations.

Polka is first and foremost a local theatre, loved by the people of Merton, South London and the wider community, but enjoys an international reputation, known throughout the world as a pioneer of theatre for children, consistently setting the standard and raising audience’s expectations.

 

Many Wimbledon-based businesses have also supported this redevelopment, yet there is still 400k needed to complete the works. Find out more and donate here.

 

Polka Theatre will be re-opening at the end of Summer 2020. For further information visit the Polka website.

 

*Photo Credit : Oscar May

Main Image (from left to right) : Peter Glanville, Michael McIntyre and Omid Djalili

Middle Image: Omar Djalili

Bottom Image (left to right) : Lynette Shanbury Polka joint CEO, Holly Morgan’s Husband, Tez Ilyas, Holly Morgan, Omid Djalili, Dominic Holland and Peter Glanville Polka CEO