2021: A year of great expectations

November 2, 2020

November 2020 is a big marker for us here at Polka. It should have been our reopening month, all planned prior to Covid-19 hitting. As we head towards the end of a year of great challenges, we want to look back at what has been achieved despite the pandemic, and look forward with excitement at what is to come. Here is an update from us all at Polka.

Back in April our building site closed for six weeks as lock-down came in and problems with the supply chain made it unfeasible to continue work. In May, despite work resuming on site, we had to face the fact that reopening would be delayed until 2021. Since then work has continued well, with a few bumps in the road of course! We’re looking forward to receiving the building back from our main contractors and starting our own fit-out process before reopening.

Some of our recent big milestones on site have included:

• Repainting of the iconic Polka frontage and clock

• Installation of solar PV panels on the roof of the new building

• Replacing the entire main ground floor concrete slab under the old building

• Painting the new Adventure Theatre with its first beautiful coat of blue paint, and White Light continuing the installation of specialist theatre equipment

• Finishing up the plastering of walls and screeding to the floors to ensure level access across the ground floor

• Prototypes of new seats for the main theatre arriving (and needing testing for comfort!)

• Arrival of our beautiful new windows to make sure we’re weathertight going into the winter

• Starting to develop our outdoor play area with specialists The Space to Play

• Planning the hard landscaping work for the sensory garden

• Our contractors ITC receiving a Considerate Constructors Scheme certificate of excellence

Along the way we’ve fixed pipes that have probably been leaking for twenty years, discovered unmarked gas supply pipes across our land, and stopped traffic as we dug up The Broadway to connect our new pipework (sorry!).

We hope you enjoy looking at some of the photos here to give you a taste of just what a transformation Polka is going through.

Whilst we’ve been shut, we’ve also been busy off-site. We’ve delivered an impressive range of activity in the community in celebration of our 40th anniversary, engaging 32,000 children alongside their families and teachers during 2019/20. When Covid-19 hit we launched Polka Online, with a range of free and paid-for digital content for children, families and teachers to use. We also continued all of our funded schools and community programmes via virtual methods, including our flagship programme Freefalling and our intergenerational choir Re:Sound. And we got creative with our fundraising too – from online campaigns to a digital quiz. There’s plenty more to come so do stay tuned…

The financial impact of Covid-19 has been huge, with over £600K uplift in capital project costs, plus the fact that we missed out on our most important winter season of shows, now all rescheduled to next year. Thanks to a broad range of exceptional, generous and committed individuals, companies, foundations, and public funders including Merton Council, we have made good progress with fundraising. But we’re not there yet – to support Polka and its ongoing mission to empower children through creativity, please make a donation if you’re able. Or you can also Name A Seat in the main theatre from just £25 per month, including a commemorative plaque with your personal message! And there is a range of fun activities coming up this winter.

Polka has always been a safe and welcoming space, open to all. We can’t wait to invite our audiences back to our wonderful new building, telling stories that will continue to enthrall children and helping them to safely navigate their way in the world. We are on the home run towards making Polka an amazing place for our community which, as we go through these challenging times, will be of ever-more vital importance. We want to thank everyone who has supported our journey so far.

Roll on 2021!

Polka’s frontage with our repainted clock

Our lift shaft making all the levels of our building accessible to everyone. Even our main theatre stage will be wheelchair accessible.

Main hallway from the entrance

The Adventure Theatre painted blue

Our team dreaming of the shows we’ll put on in the Adventure Theatre

The toilets waiting to be fitted

The front of the cafe will have big windows on the street side

The kitchen with a serving hatch to pass on all the goodies

The Clore Learning Studio where we’ll have workshops and fun activities for all ages

Our foyer

The Polka team office

A beautiful picture of the new Adventure Theatre

One of our Young Voices panel getting ready to see the site

Looking at the list of questions provided for the tour

The first children in our Adventure Theatre

Taking notes about the building

There will definitely be cake in the cafe. Our Young Voices panel made sure of it!

More note-taking and suggestion giving from our young minds

Reviewing the Polka Shop and what should be found in there

Entering the Nest (our rehearsal and community space) for the first time

Final review of the building

The stairs to our roof

Our ultra-efficient extraction grids which allow us to save on air conditioning in the building and be more sustainable!