About Us

“A local and a national treasure”
The Guardian

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.

There’s always space at Polka to play, laugh, discover and create. Our welcoming theatre is home to a friendly café, playground, garden and a fun-filled foyer with toys, books, dressing up and colouring in. It’s a unique, magical place where you can share a special moment with your child.

Creative programming keeps Polka’s work fresh and relevant. Over two spaces, the Adventure Theatre and Main Stage, young audiences can expect new plays, dynamic performers, resonant subjects and inventive adaptations of popular stories.

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, to engage in the arts through a regular programme of holiday workshops, term-time groups, after-show events, free storytelling and workshops that take Polka into the community. Schools visiting the theatre can benefit from online free resource packs and show-related workshops.

Polka is first and foremost a local theatre, loved by the people of Wimbledon, 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.

Contact us

Box Office and general enquiries: 020 8543 4888

Polka Theatre,
240 The Broadway,
Wimbledon, London
SW19 1SB

For departmental and individual staff contacts click here

Early Years Theatre

Polka Theatre for the very young is a vital part of Polka’s artistic programming. Our Early Years work is internationally recognised, establishing Polka as a centre for innovation in this field. Babies and toddlers from birth to 5 years are brought into a colourful and stimulating environment where simple stories are told in a sensory and visual way. Early Years shows also visit Polka from across Europe encouraging the telling of a diverse range of stories in a varied and exciting way.

Polka is privileged to be the UK partner in Small size, the European network for Early Years’ Theatre, enabling Polka to support artist development and showcase some of the very latest theatre being created for babies and toddlers from the UK and Europe.

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Polka History

Polka Theatre started life as a touring company in 1967 under the Artistic Directorship of Richard Gill. Gill was spurred on by a commitment to fine design and craftsmanship and a passion for puppetry, taking the company’s work to many of Britain’s major theatres. By 1971, following a successful Arts Council application (the first annual grant to any company working in the field of puppetry), Polka was attracting staggering audiences of 250,000 each year.

But touring to other people’s theatres imposed restrictions: small casts, shows that will fit every stage… Gill had a policy of bringing skill, craft and colour to Polka’s productions, and now he wanted to do the same to a building which could be a home for Polka’s work. In 1976, Polka found the Holy Trinity Halls in Wimbledon and in 1979, following a lengthy fundraising campaign, Polka’s dream of a permanent home for children’s theatre became a reality.

When Polka – The Children’s Theatre opened its doors on 20th November 1979, it became the UK’s first theatre venue dedicated exclusively to children. This momentous event was marked by a Gala Performance attended by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

Read more here

People

Artistic Director and Chief Executive
Peter Glanville

Executive Director 
Stephen Midlane

Development Director
Amanda Cropper

Board of Trustees
Sarah King (2012) (Chair) Management Consultant
Mairi Brewis (2012) Strategist
Vivienne Creevey (2012) Publisher
Nigel Halkes (2014) Non-Executive Director
Katy Manuel (2015) Arts Marketing Consultant
Iain McNicol (2014)  General Secretary, The Labour Party
Jane Moorman (2013) Lawyer
David Shriver (2010) Communications Consultant
Despo Stevens (2016) Head Teacher

Patrons
Sir Alan Ayckbourn
Malorie Blackman OBE
Sir Kenneth Branagh
Gyles Brandreth
Cerrie Burnell
Vicky Ireland MBE
Joanna Lumley OBE
Sadiq Khan
Kevin O’Hare
Dr Sir Ken Robinson
Michael Rosen
The Rt Hon Lord Smith of Finsbury
Derek Tullett CBE
Lady Vereker
June Whitfield CBE
David Wood OBE

Our supporters

We take this opportunity to express our sincere thanks to the many grant-making bodies, companies and individuals who recognize the value of our work:

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For a full list of Polka’s supporters click here

Green Polka

Polka is delighted to have been awarded a Silver in the Green Tourism Business and to have recieved a Highly Commended in the Best Green Business category of Merton Business Awards 2012.

Polka encourages all its staff and customers to Go Green! There are recycling points around the theatre and building where we recycle:

  • Glass
  • Paper
  • Plastic
  • Food Waste

Ecovenue

Polka is also proud to be part of Ecovenue, which is a major initiative of the Theatres Trust, match funded by the European Regional Development Fund and London Development Agency.
The aim is to improve the environmental performance of 48 small to medium size theatres across the Greater London area and is a long term commitment to improving the sustainability of theatres in London.

Click here for more information.

Polka Theatre Environmental Policy

  • Taking care of the environment in which we live is an increasing concern for many people and Polka Theatre has recognised this concern by adopting an environmental policy to improve the quality of the environment which we all share and have a responsibility for. Our aim is to encourage good environmental practice which educates the children who visit our building and future generations to come.
  • We endeavour to minimise our impact on the environment wherever this is practical and follow the simple principle: toreduce, reuse and recycle
  • We have introduced a waste minimisation programme to reduce the volume of waste sent to landfill. Wherever possible we buy environmentally friendly and sustainable products and material and reuse or donate materials using Freecycle. Currently we recycle glass, paper, cardboard, plastic, cans, batteries, plastic carrier bags and ink jet cartridges. We also compost garden and food waste from our staff and cafe which is then reused in our own garden.
  • We hold one-off collections for employees to bring in unwanted clothes and small household items for a staff swap; all unwanted materials go to a local charity. This reduces personal waste that might end up in the landfill. We also aim to have more community events that raise awareness of reusing resources like book and clothing swaps.
  • In 2007 we began using low energy and energy saving light bulbs. We have reduced our energy usage by 20% by using energy saving bulbs and keeping lights switched off. We have reduced our water consumption by installing water saving devices in the boys’ toilets and using a water butt for our garden watering.
  • Longer term plans are to insulate areas of the building, switch to more energy saving devices such as light timers, and introduce alternative sources of power such as solar panels.
  • In 2010 we applied for the Green Tourism for London award and awaiting a potential Silver grading. We have also been accepted as one of the first theatres’s to be part of Ecovenue through The Theatres Trust which aims to improve environmental performance in small to medium sized theatres across Greater London.

Please click here to download Polka’s full Environmental Policy.

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Jobs

Polka is currently recruiting for a new Marketing Coordinator and Trustees.
Please click here for further information.

Venue hire

Polka can host a wide range of private events, performances and functions.  More information about hiring Polka is available here.