The story of the development of TIE in Britain is one that oscillates between surges of enthusiasm and rapid growth at one extreme and periods of cutbacks, gloom and despondency at the other, intermixed with phases of rediscovery, reinvention and experiment. The trajectory has of course never been even or free of anxiety: struggle for survival has rarely been far from its practitioners’ minds. TIE is indeed one of theatre’s most vital yet most vulnerable forms. At the time of writing, in 2012, it is undergoing yet another episode of challenge, this time one that might be described as a search for redeﬁnition against a backdrop of much broader ‘applied theatre’ practice. Yet, as I surmised in 1993, when TIE faced a severe threat from the ramiﬁcations of the most radical shake-up of the education system for ﬁfty years, ‘survive it will even if in diﬀerent shapes and more varied and more ﬂuid permutations’ (Jackson 1993: 17). Just as a number of TIE teams fell prey to the economic axe wielded by beleaguered repertory companies or education authorities and as some discussed the imminent demise of TIE in Britain, so new companies formed (if with diﬀerent briefs and even less secure futures) and interest in TIE across the world was increasing (not always modelled on the British pattern). Why this bumpy ride? Why has TIE’s place within our cultural and educational infrastructure been so insecure? Why, on the other hand, despite predictions of terminal decline, does it still continue to resonate and inﬂuence contemporary practice? The history and sustainability of TIE are of course inextricably tied
up with how it is and has been funded – which in turn reﬂects uneasy philosophical tensions and debates about the function and purpose of the arts in education more generally. This may seem axiomatic but it applies more closely to TIE than to any other form of theatre practice.
TIE tends to be labour intensive: at its most eﬀective, and certainly in its ‘classic’ form (of which more later), it usually operates with one or at most two classes of children at a time (i.e. between thirty and sixty) since a close rapport and interaction with its audience are central to the experience. Even when circumstances demand performances to larger audiences, the attempt is normally made to involve them actively at some point and in some way. Moreover, its audiences are not, and more important should not be, required to pay for the service it provides. Its raison d’être lies in its function, ﬁrst, as a method of education and therefore with a justiﬁable claim to be seen as an educational resource within the school system, and, second, as an art form in its own right but one that is peculiarly suited to its speciﬁc audience and age range. However, to say that TIE is an educational resource and therefore belongs in schools and other educational settings is not to say that TIE should be wholly funded and controlled by a local education authority (LEA), let alone by central government. Direct funding and oversight by an LEA has occasionally been the most appropriate arrangement but not always – and historically TIE teams have cherished the strong degree of independence from the school system which is reﬂected in and reinforced by their funding from more than one source. As David Pammenter argued in the 1993 edition of this book (Pammenter 1993: 55-56), it is signiﬁcant that TIE was born and nurtured in the theatre. And its characteristic contribution to school-based education does perhaps derive from its roots outside the system.