Celebrated children’s theatre Polka is bringing the wonder of the stage to more schoolchildren than ever in 2022. In response to the financial struggles of schools, whilst recognising the importance of young children attending the arts, they have pledged to double their free school ticket allocation by the summer holidays, giving away a total of 4,000 school tickets by the end of the summer term.
Polka’s established free ticket scheme Curtain Up! enables at least 2,000 primary school children per year from disadvantaged locations in Merton and the surrounding boroughs to experience theatre – usually for the first time. Since the theatre reopened last autumn, following its major redevelopment, Polka has hosted 22 schools attending Curtain Up! performances, providing a unique theatre experience to over 1,700 children.
Lynette Shanbury, Executive Director of Polka Theatre, comments, We are in awe of the teachers, teaching assistants and school staff that we work with every day. Their determination to help children navigate this sometimes unfathomable world is incredible. We know how hard it is right now to plan a trip to the theatre, to get the funds, to plan the travel, to try to do it even when staff Covid absences are causing so many problems. This is a tough world for children at the moment – the impact of Covid continues to cause immense stress and anxiety, and inequality is a growing, monstrous issue. Theatre gives children a creative outlet, an escapist ride into the world of stories, a way to reflect on their own world, and a chance to experience emotional journeys together. We want to make sure they don’t miss out.
The growth of the scheme is in response to the lasting impact of Covid, with schools struggling financially and organisationally to bring children into Polka. Alongside their flexible booking policies, the theatre endeavours to clear the financial barrier for schools to visit Polka by offering free tickets and travel support. As an institution, Polka aims to ensure that all children have access to live theatre to ensure a whole generation of children don’t miss out on these vital experiences due to the pandemic.
The sophisticated and thoughtfully created theatre and activities that Polka provide give children escapist joy every day through extraordinary stories, imaginative worlds that explode their ambitions, creative tools they can use to express themselves and face their world with confidence, and a space and community where they are all always welcomed and will always belong.
Curtain Up! is only available by application which enables the scheme to reach the most disadvantaged children living in the most marginalised areas, schools working with children with special educational needs, and schools with financial barriers to taking part in arts activities. The theatre’s aim is to continue to reach at least 4,000 children per year through Curtain Up! in Merton, Croydon, Wandsworth and other surrounding boroughs.
The scheme is currently sponsored by committed Curtain Up! supporters: The Peter and Teresa Harris Charitable Trust, Alf and Hilda Leivers Charity Trust, The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust, The John Thaw Foundation, Teale Charitable Trust, Unity Theatre Trust.
For more information visit https://polkatheatre.com