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

General enquiries: 020 8545 8320

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

Please note the building is temporarily closed to the public, reopening in summer 2020 

For departmental and individual staff contacts click here

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

PolkaLAB

Polka is delighted to announce the launch of PolkaLAB. The principle aim of PolkaLAB is to provide a supportive in-house framework for the professional development of companies or artists wanting to create innovative and ground-breaking children’s theatre.

PolkaLAB will support up to three companies or artists per year to research new productions for children and will address significant gaps within the Theatre for Young Audiences sector. These are:

  • Work led by DISABLED ARTISTS
  • Work led by BAME ARTISTS
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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Our supporters

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

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For a full list of Polka’s supporters click here

People

Artistic Director & Joint Chief Executive
Peter Glanville

Executive Director & Joint Chief Executive
Lynette Shanbury

Board of Trustees
Sarah King (2012) (Chair) Management Consultant
Michael Bradley (2019) Head Teacher
Mairi Brewis (2012) Strategist
Rebecca Holt (2017) COO, BAC
Vivienne Creevey (2012) Publisher
Bilal Hafeez (2017) Economist
Nigel Halkes (2014) Non-Executive Director
Katy Manuel (2015) Arts Marketing Consultant
Lord McNicol of West Kilbride (2014)
Nicola Theron (2016) Property Advisor
Emily Vaughan-Barratt (2019) Theatre Producer

Advisory Council
Adam Cross, Teacher
Alexey Bochmanov, Financier
Alison Harpur, Children’s Bookseller
Andrew Harper, Architect
Anne Millman, Arts Consultant
Brad Taylor, HR Director
Claire Zammit, Visitor Services
David Shriver, Communications Consultant
Edward Benzecry, Property Consultant
Elizabeth Gillies, Psychologist
Gilly Briant, Lawyer
Jackie Hoyte, PR Consultant
James Davies, Retail Design
Joe Coehlo, Poet
Lynette Goddard, Drama Lecturer
Marleen Vermeulen, Performer
Oonagh Moulton, Local Councillor
Piers Barclay, Strategic Analyst
Punita Hossain, Technology Consultant
Sarah Argent, Theatre Director
Sarah Sawyerr, Teacher
Sasha Temple-Jones, Financier
Sue Buckmaster, Theatre Director
Susie Briant, PR Account Manager

Patrons
Sir Alan Ayckbourn
Malorie Blackman OBE
Sir Kenneth Branagh
Gyles Brandreth
Cerrie Burnell
Omid Djalili
Amanda Holden
Vicky Ireland MBE
Joanna Lumley OBE
Sadiq Khan
Kevin O’Hare
Dr Sir Ken Robinson
Michael Rosen
Derek Tullett CBE
Lady Vereker
David Wood OBE

Child Protection Policy

As a venue dedicated to children, the safety and protection of children is paramount. Our Board of Trustees and all staff employed by Polka Theatre have a duty of care to children and young people who visit our theatre and attend our activities. We recognise our commitment to safeguard and promote children’s welfare and follow a policy of best practice that protects them.

You can read our full policy here.