Polka Theatre’s Artistic Director and Joint Chief Executive Helen Matravers, Executive Director and Joint Chief Executive Lynette Shanbury, and the whole team are pleased to announce further details for the return of their Early Years Theatre Festival, Big Dreams. The Festival will take place on 28 – 29 September 2024, with five innovative productions, creative digital installations, interactive talks from renowned early years authors in partnership with Wimbledon BookFest, and a range of free activities.  


Shows on Saturday 28 September will be: Kaleidoscope, where a multi-coloured kaleidoscope is brought to life for babies aged 6 – 18 months; Wonder Gigs, a music-filled session for ages 0 – 4 years with props, puppets, bubbles and gentle child-led play – both from Filskit Theatre Company; and Second Hand Dance return to Polka, after a previous sell-out production at Big Dreams, with The Sticky Dance tape, stick and groove in this interactive colourful performance installation for 3 – 5-year-olds. 


Shows on Sunday 29 September will be: LàQua from Teatro Koreja, an exploration of senses, language, understanding and memory using polyphonic song and rhythms for ages 0 – 3 years; and 4 – 8-year-olds are invited to help the Boxville engineers to build their way through the story in Boxville from Cardboard Adventures


Wimbledon BookFest events with pictures book authors during the festival include: a story-telling and live draw-along session based upon the beloved Storm Whale stories with award-winning author and illustrator Benji Davies; a 25th anniversary celebration of Debi Gliori’s timeless classic No Matter What; an interactive reading and signing of World Book Day 2024 author Tọlá Okogwu’s moving and magical book Bekah and the Moon; and Gigantosaurus’ author Jonny Duddle will do a draw-along and readthrough of his brand-new book Doodle with Duddle: How to Draw Dinosaurs


Free activities during the festival include face painting, glitter tattoos, Seashellsa video installation by Greg Sinclair, activity sheets, and access to Polka’s indoor and outdoor play areas.  


Tickets for performances and talks are £12 each, with a multi-buy saving available when booking 2 or more events.  


On Friday 27 September, Polka will hold an ‘Artist Day’, where Polka Theatre’s Artist Development Programme (Catapult) participants - will showcase scratches of their brand-new work for young audiences and participate in Q&As. The Catapult participants include Ashton Owen and Natalya Martin, Farrell Cox, Mikayla Teodoro, Layla Bradbeer, Ruby Kitching, and Kiota Collective. 


This will be followed by a panel, co-curated with Polka Associate Artists Second Hand Dance, on ‘Reviewing Theatre and Dance for TYA’, chaired by Lyn Gardner, and with panellists Donald Hutera, Mary Pollard, Rosie Heafford and Sarah Argent to discuss progress and priorities in reviewing theatre and dance for young audiences, and how the sector can garner more recognition and understanding.  


A second panel will focus on priorities for commissioning and programming in TYA, with a panel including Rachel Bagshaw (Artistic Director, Unicorn Theatre), Noel Gay (Artistic Director, Imaginate), Chris Elwell (Artistic Director, Half Moon) and Helen Matravers (Artistic Director, Polka Theatre). Questions will include how the sector is supporting artists developing work, and what priorities are being considered when programming and commissioning Theatre for Young Audiences?  


Tickets will be £10 for the whole Artist Day, which includes teas, coffees and pastries.  


Helen Matravers said, Big Dreams is a unique and wonderful opportunity to celebrate Early Years work, to platform artists with brilliant new ideas and open Polka’s doors even wider to welcome our local audiences and invite the wider industry to experience the joy of children’s theatre. I am over the moon to be showcasing exceptional UK-wide made work alongside international artists, and giving an essential stage and space to brand new scratch concepts. It’s vital that spaces like this exist, for artists to be able to take risks and to network with peers and programmers. What’s brilliant about Big Dreams is that it’s so hugely diverse in its offering, from artist scratch work, panel talks with industry specialists, to the staging of some of the best work for Early Years made in recent years. It’s fantastic to be welcoming Polka Artistic Associates Second Hand Dance to share their inventive The Sticky Dance, and to be pairing up with Wimbledon BookFest to present interactive author events. It’s a weekend with something for everyone to get involved in.” 


Tickets are on sale now via polkatheatre.com or via 020 8543 4888* 


Polka Theatre is one of just a handful of dedicated children’s venues in the UK. Re-opening in 2021 after a major renovation, Polka continues to present a year-round programme of shows produced by Polka and from visiting companies. Polka also offers a full programme of creative learning activities for ages 0–12, with over 21,000 children taking part in the last year. Polka enjoys flexible rehearsal and workshop spaces along with two performance spaces: the Main Theatre has a 300-seat capacity, and the Adventure Theatre can seat up to 90 depending on the show format. 


Polka is a community hub and vital resource, open 6 days per week, 50 weeks per year at a challenging time to be a sustainable public venue with step-free access, free-to-access play spaces and a cosy and welcoming café and shop.