Polka Theatre announced the success of its second-stage funding application with the Arts Council, raising £2.5 million to redevelop the children’s theatre for future generations.
As part of the Future Polka project, a £6.5 million plan to redevelop the exclusive ‘for children’ UK theatre (from babies up to 12-year olds), this injection of capital from the Arts Council, along with major trusts and donors, means that over 60% of the project’s total budget is now in place.
Peter Glanville, chief executive and artistic director of the Polka Theatre, said: “We’re thrilled to have secured further funding towards our capital redevelopment and we hope that some of Polka’s many past and current visitors will also pledge their support, so we can undertake much-needed improvements to our premises and continue to offer a unique theatre environment where children can play, discover and create and let their imaginations run wild.”
Foster Wilson Architects, who have a history of designing cultural spaces and theatres, won the competition to redesign the Polka Theatre in 2009 and the plans for the redevelopment include:
The plans for the redevelopment include expanding the existing front of house with a café and shop, creating the New Adventure Theatre for under-6’s and making an education learning space with a multi-sensory garden and play area.
The theatre management also aim to provide support for the PolkaLAB professional development programme with a rehearsal and r&d studio, as well as a new bathroom and baby change facilities with a designated buggy park.
This stage’s capital will start redevelopment work from February 2019, with the building temporarily closing while the work takes place.
Tarek Iskander, director of Arts Council England, said: “Polka Theatre is an established leader in the provision of work for children up to twelve years old and proposed capital plans will see them become a National Centre for Early Years’ Theatre in response to an increasing demand for this genre of work.”
He added: “We also welcome their plans for new rehearsal and development studios. These will facilitate Polka’s professional development programme for theatre makers who want to make a career in this sector and address the need for more inclusive and diverse children’s theatre.”
Polka is on track to achieve 90% of its £4 million match funding target by December 2018.
The news has been received well on social media. TV producer and director of I’m a Celebrity, Gogglebox and Love Island, Lauren Garvey, said:
“This is incredible news. Your theatre changed my life when I was a little girl. Thrilled that so many children will have this opportunity too in the future. Thank you.”
This is incredible news. Your theatre changed my life when I was a little girl. Thrilled that so many children will have this opportunity too in the future. Thank you. 💜🎭🎟💐
— Lauren Garvey (@laurenegarvey) January 17, 2018
Local legal practice, Peacock & Co, based in Wimbledon Village, said:
“Amazing news! Long has @polkatheatre been enjoyed by the children of #merton and further afield and long may that continue.”
— Peacock & Co (@PeacockandCo) January 18, 2018
The theatre, due to celebrate its 40th birthday in November 2019, has since welcomed over 3.5 million visitors. The venue was formerly the Holy Trinity Halls in Wimbledon.