Watershed opened as ‘Britain’s first Media Centre’ on 7th June 1982 on the first floor of two refurbished Grade II listed sheds on Bristol’s historic harbourside – the same year that Channel 4, the Commodore 64 and Sony’s first CD player also launched. Our aims were to champion independent media creativity and emergent art forms and we have held on to those founding principles of open access, cultural diversity, and innovation, forging an international reputation for developing audiences, ideas, and talent.
Since 1999, the original focus has evolved to embrace cultural and technical change driven by digital technologies. Working with Bristol-based companies, the local creative cluster, the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England, Watershed has become a pioneer in producing digital creativity collaborations crossing cultural, commercial and academic sectors.
In 2007 we purchased the head lease on the building to take control of the ground floor, improve accessibility and generate new income which allowed for the launch of the Pervasive Media Studio in 2008 which has grown to become a world-leading centre for creative technology, innovation, and talent development.
Our accessible facilities include three cinemas, a suite of three flexible event spaces, the Pervasive Media Studio, the linked Studio 5 workspace for freelance creatives and micro companies, workspace for young people, a large café/bar and offices. With audiences and participation at our heart, we present a diverse cultural programme of films, events, festivals, artist commissions, workshops, and conferences.
“We design our programmes to have a local, national and global impact. Our open approach and accessible venue ensure people from all backgrounds feel welcome. By providing the space and opportunity for different worlds to meet, Watershed plays an active role in strengthening the aspiration and the connections of the local ecology.” Clare Reddington, CEO, Watershed
We are distinctive in our attitude to curation and programme, innovating at the intersection of art, technology, and society: playfulness, relevance and care are key. Watershed takes a hands-on approach to nurturing and developing talent – Rife is our youth-led online magazine, both a magazine and a professional development programme – which genuinely changes lives by nurturing young talent from diverse backgrounds, connecting them to opportunities and careers they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
We are one of the leading UK independent cultural cinemas dedicated to screening the broad range and diversity of UK independent and world film. As the lead organisation for Film Hub South West, one of the BFI’s Film Audience Network 8 regional Film Hubs, we develop audiences and filmmaking talent across the UK. We also partner with Bristol City Council to develop and promote the city’s status as UNESCO City of Film.
“Watershed is the beating heart of Bristol” – Stephen Fear, Entrepreneur
Watershed’s impact is not characterised in a single programme or project, but in our ethos of openness, inclusivity, and responsibility. These attributes are shared across our whole organisation and lead to engaged audiences, flourishing talent and a competitive creative sector.