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The 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 the launch of the inaugural Polka Playwriting Award, which will champion playwriting and the creation of new work for young audiences.

The award is generously funded by The Garek Trust, supported by Cockayne and London Community Foundation and the award partner is Methuen Drama. 

Of all the major playwriting awards open to unsolicited submission, none currently prioritise Theatre for Young Audiences, with the vast majority not accepting scripts for young audiences at all. Polka Theatre want to draw attention to the quality, rigour and imagination needed to write for such an exciting audience base. Through the award, Polka will place the importance and rewards of writing for Children’s Theatre firmly on the map, attract interest and new voices to the Theatre for Young Audiences world, and offer wider insight into the process and approach to writing for a pre-teen age group. 

The winner will receive a full commission and staging of their play in Polka’s Adventure Theatre, plus their script will be published by award partner, Methuen Drama.


The award is open to plays written for any age range between ages 7-13, an age also identified by Polka as currently underserved by the wider theatre sector. Eligible scripts must not have been performed before – with the only exception being as part of a workshop or research and development process – and must be an original work that is not an adaptation of pre-existing material. Writers at any stage of their career are encouraged to apply. Alongside the award, online masterclasses around writing for this age group will also be delivered. 

Following a shortlisting process, including crucial feedback from a panel of young advisors (Polka Grads), a judging panel of Artistic Director and Writer, Chinonyerem Odimba, current Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho, Polka Patron and former Artistic Director, Vicky Ireland and Polka’s Artistic Director Helen Matravers, will select the winning script from the shortlist. 

Plays can be submitted by emailing the script to producing@polkatheatre.com by midday on 20 August 2024. Scripts are read anonymously and must be submitted as an attachment, without the name of the playwright(s) on the document itself. A panel of experienced readers will decide on a shortlist of five plays by the end of October 2024. 

The winner will be announced at a ceremony at Polka Theatre in January 2025.

Award Judge, Joseph Coelho said, “Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) goes beyond mere entertainment. Through theatre young audiences learn how to navigate the world and broaden their horizons. They get to become explorers of ideas and themes and emotions. I am so delighted to be a judge for the Playwrighting Award for Children’s Theatre and know that Polka Theatre, with its track record in high quality TYA is the perfect place for new playwrights to flourish.” 

Chinonyerem Odimba said, “Throughout my career, I have taken so much joy from writing and directing for young audiences. It feels important that we keep finding the opportunities to celebrate the writers and theatremakers that put young audiences at the heart of what they do, and we keep challenging the snobbery towards that work. This prize feels like an important step towards that, and I get to work with the brilliant Polka Theatre on it. I can’t wait to read some exciting new writing!”

Methuen Drama said, “Methuen Drama is proud to partner with Polka Theatre to publish the winner of the inaugural Polka Theatre Playwriting Award in 2024 into our Plays for Young People series, alongside its production in 2025. We are inspired by Polka Theatre’s commitment to deep and engaging new work for young people aged 7-13, which is such a pivotal time of growth and development and an age group that is so often overlooked in the Arts. We are delighted to support the future of innovative theatre for young audiences through this wonderful initiative and look forward to publishing the winning play.”

Polka Artistic Director Helen Matravers saidPolka has an incredible reputation for staging work by some of the world’s most famous playwrights, who have written with amazing rigour and joy specifically for young audiences. This is a unique opportunity to apply to an award, which promises publication, full commission and a staged production – in amongst famous playwriting awards which don’t allow children’s work to be considered. We have to address the gap in theatre provision for the pre-teen age group. We are losing generations of theatre makers and goers because work for this age group isn’t being made and staged. These young people fall out of love with theatre because it becomes purely educational and curricular, and we as an industry spend a fortune re-engaging people with theatre later in their teens or beyond, when the benefits are so wonderful and tangible if we can mine and produce the work that really speaks to them. 


It was really important that as part of the judging process on the award that children’s voices were included, so we are delighted that a panel of Polka young voices will review the shortlisted plays and put their suggestions through to the judges. We are incredibly grateful and indebted to The Garek Trust, Cockayne  and London Community Foundation, and Methuen Drama for supporting this award and seeing the incredible impact and value in making this work.

I would encourage playwrights, at any stage of their career, to apply – to create and imagine worlds for the most enthusiastic, honest and important audiences is a total delight.”

The Polka Playwriting Award is generously funded by The Garek Trust. It is supported by Cockayne and London Community Foundation. The award partner is Methuen Drama.

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 20,000 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.

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