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TiE 50 - Theatre in Education Then and Now

Posted on 20 October 2015

This week marks the culmination of the Belgrade’s year-long programme of celebration marking the 50th Anniversary of the birth of Theatre in Education in Coventry.

Since that first TiE tour back in 1965, Theatre in Education has gone on to touch the lives of tens of thousands of school children across Coventry and the wider world, inspiring curiosity in generation after generation through drama.

To mark this significant anniversary, the Belgrade Theatre will be opening its doors to educational specialists, TiE practitioners and academics from across the UK and the wider world as part of a major new conference debating the future of drama in schools from Tues 20th – Thurs 22nd Oct.

Building on the strong foundations of Theatre in Education, the three day conference will see policy makers, teachers, young people and theatre educators from across the sector come together to discuss the vital role of drama and theatre in schools and the marginalization of the arts in the national curriculum. The conference will explore a wide range of participatory practices that have emerged over the last 50 years, and ask pertinent questions about what the future holds for drama, theatre and learning, particularly in the lives of children and young people.

To celebrate this important milestone in the history of the Belgrade Theatre, we’re putting the history of Theatre in Education (TiE) in the spotlight.

What is Theatre in Education (TiE)?

Theatre in Education (TiE) began as a city-wide experiment launched by the Belgrade Theatre in partnership with Coventry City Council in 1965. Theatre in Education or TiE as it is more commonly known championed an approach to learning which used theatrical performance and drama workshops to explore issues of moral, social and cultural significance.

The Theatre in Education movement soon spread to theatres across the UK, and then to broader contexts across the globe, inspiring a wide range of participatory theatre with children and young people, encouraging and empowering children to investigate challenging situations for themselves.

How was the programme funded and who was involved?

The first Theatre in Education (TiE) Company began life as a pilot programme consisting of four actor-teachers, Gordon Vallins, Jessica Hill, Ann Lister and Dickon Reed. The first TiE programme began in September 1965 with a tour of an infant level piece, The Balloon Man and the Runaway Balloons, a primary level piece called The Secret Life of the Stone and a secondary level piece called The High Girders – each of which explored the theme of responsibility. By 1966, the TiE Company had been established as a permanent company and had been granted £12,000 of ring fenced funding on an annual basis by Coventry City Council.

By the late 1960s, TiE was an established force nationwide. As actor-teachers left the Belgrade, the pioneering practices which informed TiE were transported to other theatres across the UK. Such was the influence of TiE that by 1977, there were approximately 90 companies in the country commissioning and producing work specifically for children and young people.

By the late 1980s, TiE companies across the UK were in decline. The advent of the Educational Reform Act of 1988 meant that Local Educational Authorities were no longer in a position to provide city wide schemes whilst the introduction of a National Curriculum signalled a wider ideological shift in the UK education system. Faced with severe financial pressures, the Theatre In Education Company eventually disbanded in 1996 after 36 years of financial and creative autonomy.

By the late 1960s, TiE was an established force nationwide. As actor-teachers left the Belgrade, the pioneering practices which informed TiE were transported to other theatres across the UK. Such was the influence of TiE that by 1977, there were approximately 90 companies in the country commissioning and producing work specifically for children and young people.

The early 1970s signalled a change in direction for TiE at the Belgrade. Never shy of exposing young people to challenging ideas, the 70s saw the TiE company engage explicitly with contemporary political, social and economic dilemmas as illustrated by pieces such as Rare Earth (1973) a three-year programme exploring ecological responsibility and The Price Of Coal (1975) which responded to the Bedworth miners’ strikes. This approach continued into the early 80s with the commissioning of a two-part programme made up of Land Of Hope which was aimed at infant school children and A Man I Never Knew which was aimed at their parents, both of which explored issues of race and migration in Coventry.

By the late 1980s, TiE companies across the UK were in decline. The advent of the Educational Reform Act of 1988 meant that Local Educational Authorities were no longer in a position to provide city wide schemes whilst the introduction of a National Curriculum signalled a wider ideological shift in the UK education system. Faced with severe financial pressures, the Theatre In Education Company eventually disbanded in 1996 after 36 years of financial and creative autonomy.

From 1996 onwards, the Belgrade Theatre began to once again expand its programme of Community & Education work with the introduction of schemes such as Acting Out, a pioneering work-based learning programme aimed at young people who are not reaching their full potential within the mainstream education system, and ‘Big School’, a TiE project initiated by Matthew Pegg (the then Head of Young People’s Theatre) in 1999 themed around the issue of transition.

The appointment of Hamish Glen as Artistic Director in 2003 saw the appointment of an Associate Director for Community & Education, Justine Themen, thereby re-affirming the importance of Community & Education to the Belgrade’s social and artistic vision.

Is TiE still practiced by the Belgrade Theatre today?

Currently, the Belgrade Theatre runs one regular Theatre In Education project a year themed around the issue of transition. 2014 saw 42% of Coventry Primary schools access the ‘Big School’ project in partnership with the local Education Authority, reaching a total of 1858 children aged 10-11 overall.

The Belgrade Theatre has continued to pilot ground-breaking initiatives within the field of participatory arts practice and is currently home to one of the most active community and education programmes in the UK. The Community & Education Company currently comprises of eight youth theatres including the newly launched Asian Youth Theatre and existing outreach groups which include Black Youth Theatre and Canley Youth Theatre. Its current Youth Theatre programme is committed to using theatre to empower local communities, giving young people a voice through the creation of exciting pieces of original theatre that bear witness to their experiences. The Company’s work is based on the premise that drama is a powerful tool for the building of creative, confident individuals and communities with a strong sense of local identity. Most of the Youth Theatre’s work is now devised, allowing the creation of original work that evolves out of the experiences of the young people but is supported by the expertise of professional artists.

Over the last twelve months, a total of 9,242 children, young people and adults aged 50+ participated in 1,027 workshops carried out via the Belgrade Community & Education Company. In the same year, a total of 56 Community & Education sharings were seen by 2,822 audience members.

Curious to know more about our Inspiring Curiosity celebrations? Visit our website for details.

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Apr 21, 2017, 9:05 pm