As well as being home to one of the world’s most renowned sporting championships, Wimbledon also offers a plethora of ways to celebrate art, music, literature and culture. With a lengthy list of theatres, venues, galleries, museums, educational centres and even religious landmarks, it is clear to see that the Wimbledon community embraces the arts and culture.
Theatre and the Arts
Despite being located outside of London’s West End theatre district, the New Wimbledon Theatre is one of the biggest theatres in the capital with a seating capacity of 1,670. This Grade II listed building has a rich history and is renowned for staging some of the most well-known international musicals, plays and pantomimes. Additionally, this theatre – often referred to as the ‘Home of London Pantomime’ – has hosted many of the largest names in entertainment over the years, such as wartime film star Marlene Dietrich and legendary slapstick comedy duo Laurel & Hardy. The New Wimbledon Theatre also famously hosted Prince Charles’ 60th birthday gala ‘We Are Most Amused’ in 2008. A fun fact about this unique venue is that it is the only theatre in Britain to contain a Victorian-style Turkish bath in its basement.
The Polka Theatre, located in South Wimbledon, is an internationally renowned children’s theatre. Being the first theatre of its kind in the UK, the opening of the Polka was attended by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother in 1979. Since then, the Polka has produced world-class theatre and entertainment across its two spaces – the ‘Adventure Stage’ and ‘Main Stage’ – and held workshops and events especially targeted at children, with the aim of entertaining and inspiring young audiences. The Polka also features a café, a play area and a garden.
One of six colleges that make up the Univesity of the Arts London, the Wimbledon College of Arts offers courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level, as well as short courses, covering theatre, film and television; from acting and performance to costume design and screen. This college has an on-site professional theatre, a range of specialist workshops and studios.
The Arts Society Wimbledon – formerly known as ‘WIDFAS’ – is a group that offers a programme of illustrated talks and lectures on the arts, and organises visits to galleries, museums and venues with historic or architectural interest. The Arts Society Wimbledon aims to promote education and enjoyment of the arts within Wimbledon’s community, and acts as a platform for people to meet other, like-minded individuals with a shared love of the arts.
Museums and Cultural Landmarks
Everybody associates Wimbledon with tennis – and rightly so. The Championships are held in July, but – luckily for Wimbledon fans – there is a museum which is open all year round. Visitors can discover the history and magic of Wimbledon and admire The Championships Trophies, clothing and equipment donated by tennis superstars in the museum. Tours led by Blue Badge Guides are also run when The Championships are not taking place. Held in multiple languages, the award-winning tours offer visitors the chance to go behind the scenes of the iconic All England Lawn Tennis Club and access exciting areas such as the BBC Studio, the Main Press Interview Room and the Players’ Entrance. All in all, this special museum presents a fun family day out.
Since 1817, a historic relic in the form of a windmill has stood in the heart of Wimbledon Common. Although the windmill officially stopped operating in 1864, this prominent landmark has now been transformed into a volunteer-run museum. Visitors can explore local artefacts, learn about the area’s scouting history and even try their hand at milling flour using the interactive milling machinery.
The Museum of Wimbledon, located in the quaint area of Wimbledon Village, is a great place to learn about the district’s rich past. Discover what life was like in prehistoric Wimbledon, explore the Elizabethan and Georgian eras in the area, and learn about the great houses and leisure activities that this South-West London location has been home to over the years.
Did you know that Wimbledon is home to an impressive Thai Buddhist temple? In fact, this iconic structure was the first of its kind to be built in the UK. An important Buddhist training centre affiliated to the Royal Thai Embassy in London, Wat Buddhapadipa aims to spread the teaching of the Buddha in the Theravada tradition. Visitors of any faith are welcome to take a walk around the picturesque, colourful grounds of this holy landmark, where they will come across a harmonious pond and multiple bridges, vibrant flora and signs conveying words of wisdom dotted around the site. Whether you’re participating in a meditation class or just fancy a peaceful stroll, this tranquil retreat is definitely worth a visit.
Wimbledon Art Studios is a bespoke studio complex that provides around 300 artists, makers and designers with affordable art spaces. In addition to presenting the opportunity to buy artwork and attend workshops, Wimbledon Art Studios also hold art fairs twice a year, monthly socials and seasonal parties.
Art lovers in Wimbledon revel in a great selection of art galleries in which to enjoy and admire talent and creativity. With galleries dispersed around London, Clarendon Fine Art specialises in both British and international contemporary paintings and sculpture. Visitors of Clarendon’s Wimbledon branch, located on the high street, can observe work from internationally renowned emerging artists.
Founded in 2000, Aubergine Art is a family-owned gallery that offers a picture framing service and exhibits original art, contemporary prints, and handmade glass.
Wimbledon art connoisseurs can also view and buy British, European and Scandinavian art at Wimbledon Fine Art, one of the area’s most well-known galleries. The Cynthia Corbett Gallery various contemporary art exhibitions.
It is no surprise that reading and literature play an important role in Wimbledon’s community. The area has been home to some of the most influential names in poetry and literature including 17th century poet John Donne, novelist Georgette Heyer, and Raymond Briggs, the creator and illustrator of The Snowman. Additionally, Wimbledon Common was where author Elisabeth Beresford coined one of sixties Britain’s most famous fictional communities: the Wombles.
Founded in 2006, Wimbledon Bookfest is held annually across over 40 schools, promoting arts, culture and education within the community. This popular festival hosts almost 100 events over a 10 day period and is predominantly run by volunteers.