Fundraising to complete Polka’s much-anticipated building redevelopment, during covid, has been a bit like trying to perform a play in front of a live audience where the script keeps changing in real-time (with your own child in the wings heckling you and demanding more snacks!) The pandemic had the potential to seriously disrupt Polka’s financial sustainability. Like so many charities, our carefully thought out plans, campaigns and events were all derailed. For those of us with children, home working added a new tier of chaos. It seemed completely ironic that my team were raising thousands of pounds to support childhood development activities, yet my own child was spending six hours a day in front of a screen.
With our carefully thought out fundraising strategy in the shredding machine, it seemed sensible to look outwards for answers, research, strategize and furlough our fundraising staff, while waiting for information. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an option, we were/and still are, in a race against time to complete the £8.5m mountain – any delays add costs. Unlike climbing an actual mountain, behind every boulder, a member of the community has surprised us by giving us a leg up, providing a ladder or dropping a rope. Instead of trying to negotiate with us – our corporate partners offered food and tech equipment for our participants, knowing that so many families were facing destitution. Our most bureaucratic funders threw out their rule books, stopped talking about evidence and impact and started talking about love and community. We have seen the crises bring out the best in people and we are so grateful.
Public play areas and spaces for the community to come together are no longer taken for granted. Polka will re-open this Summer, simply because so many people want it to and recognise that all children, regardless of their background, deserve the best chances in life. Covid has widened the inequalities in our communities, sadly many of the children we work with were already facing challenging circumstances but the pandemic has made so many people worse off. Children have been deprived of fun and social interaction. They have been exposed to more screen time and mental health is a big concern for so many parents, carers and teachers. Children need creativity in their lives now more than ever. Polka is recognised as a powerhouse in children’s arts and has such a big part to play in improving children’s lives now and for many years to come. We now have £55,000 left to raise and every single penny counts! For more information about how you can support Polka Theatre email Sarah Ruff or you can donate via our website here.