Frequently Asked Questions

A still from the film The Class

Get your questions about Watershed answered here. If you can't find what you're looking for, drop us a line at communications@watershed.co.uk and we'll get back to you.

What is Watershed?
Watershed is a cross-artform venue and producer, sharing, developing and showcasing exemplary cultural ideas and talent. Curating ideas, spaces and talent, Watershed enables artistic visions and creative collaborations to flourish. Watershed is rooted in Bristol but places no boundaries on its imagination or desire to connect with artists and audiences in the wider world.
What is cross-art form?
Watershed produces work which cuts across many artforms including (for example) film, music, theatre, design and visual art. Some good examples of this type of work include The Passion of Joan of Arc in collaboration with Colston Hall and the Pervasive Media Studio’s artist residencies.
How is Watershed structured and run?
Watershed is a group of three companies; Watershed Arts Trust (cultural programme and audience enagagment), Watershed Trading (visitor experience), and iShed Community Interest Company (talent development), all operating within a common values-led brand. Each company has specialist expertise and responsibility (mentioned above) and presents a distinct offer to target  communities of interest creating a range of routes into engagement with Watershed. Working as a group means that we can bring these diverse communities together through the generation of  cultural ideas and emergent  practice. The overall value of the work created by the group is configured through a networked approach co-ordinated and supported at group level. Each of the three companies has its own Board with expertise appropriate to the needs of that  company. Watershed’s Board of Management governs the Arts Trust which maintains the Group overview. In addition, the Chair’s Co-ordinating Committee brings together the chairs of the Arts Trust, iShed and Trading company boards.  This committee provides a vital link between the individual boards ensuring that the Group remains a consolidated unit with shared vision and values. 
What is iShed and how does it relate to Watershed?
iShed was set up in 2007, it is a Community Interest Company (CIC) and a wholly owned subsidiary of Watershed Arts Trust. When you register a CIC, you have to define the ‘community’ your activities will benefit, for iShed’s this is Artists, researchers, industry and organisations. The aim of all of iShed’s activities is to develop talent, share knowledge and produce collaborative research projects. 
What is Dshed and how does it relate to Watershed?
DShed is Watershed’s online showcase and archive. DShed embodies the creativity seeded at the very heart of Watershed and demonstrates our mission to continuously create opportunities for people to come together to make, view and discuss new work. Most of the content you will find on or through DShed has been made in partnership with artists, creative companies, schools, universities and passionate individuals. Set up in 2001 as a virtual exhibition space for Watershed’s digital development and practice visitors to DShed can watch short films, listen to podcasts, read artists’ and commentators’ diaries and catch up on events and talks.
What is the Pervasive Media Studio and how does it relate to Watershed?
The Pervasive Media Studio is a creative technologies collaboration between Watershed, University of West of England and University of Bristol. It is as a multi-disciplinary lab where a brilliant community of artists, creative companies, technologists and academics work on commercial and cultural projects in the area of pervasive media. The open-plan workspace allows and encourages ideas to be shared and developed collaboratively. The Studio was  set up in 2008 in Leadworks, Anchor Square by Watershed in association with HP Labs and the South West Regional Development Agency. In 2011 it expanded, formed a new partnership with the two Universities and moved into the Watershed building.
What is pervasive media?
Pervasive Media is basically any experience that uses sensors and/or mobile/wireless networks to bring you content (film, music, images, a game…) that’s sensitive to your situation – which could be where you are, how you feel, or who you are with. Oyster Cards are a simple pervasive device: so are audio guides at tourist attractions, which can give you extra information according to where you are and which bits you’ve been to already. Read more.
How is Watershed funded?
Watershed is funded through self-generated income from the Box Office, Café/Bar and Conference and events hire. We also receive 17% in grant funding from a wide range of sources. Our diverse programme would not be possible without the support and generosity of our individual donors, funders and partners.
I thought you were just a cinema and Café/Bar – tell me more about what you do?
The most public-facing parts of Watershed are indeed the cinema and the Café/Bar but we have other less publicly-visible parts eg the Pervasive Media Studio which hosts artists and creative practitioners. We have conference facilities and host many events, festivals and workshops for clients ranging from Lloyds TSB to Wildscreen Festival. We also present creative projects and activities online, you can visit DShed to see this work. We own the Watershed building and are landords to the businesses on the ground floor along the walkway. Part of our responsibilities and aims as a landlord is to encourage culture and diversity on the Waterfront. Essentially what Watershed does is curate ideas, spaces and talent, to enable artistic visions and creative collaborations to flourish. Take a look here to see a variety of stories that help explain the work we do.
How old is Watershed?
Watershed opened in 1982 as the UK’s first media centre. Find out more about Watershed's history.
Do you own the building?
Yes we do, in 2007 the South West Regional Development Agency created a new fund to support the creative media sector in Bristol and enabled Watershed to buy its home, the historic dockside E&W sheds. This investment helped to give us more long term stability and the opportunity to grow a dynamic community for creative businesses on the Harbourside.  Since 2007 we have worked hard with many partners on improving the area around Watershed to make it a more inclusive place, particularly in the evenings and our aim is to create an even more diverse environment in this key landmark area for residents and visitors.
What are Watershed’s values?
The Watershed brand is unique, trusted and respected and is driven by the following shared values:
  • People Led: ‘People are the engine of our organisation. We will never forget that we are here for the people we work with and for – without them Watershed would not exist.’
  • Entrepreneurial: ‘We create opportunities, incubate ideas and take risks to explore new ways of looking at and doing things.’
  • Make Things Work: ‘Through partnership, innovation and exchange we make things work and aspire to excellence.’
  • Open & Honest: ‘We provide a culture and environment that is trusting, trusted and trustworthy.’
  • Celebratory: ‘At the heart of our offer is the celebration of culture, diversity, creativity and wonder.’
I heard you were a registered charity – tell me more
Watershed Arts Trust is a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity (charity number 284188). It was initiated to advance education, skills, appreciation and understanding of the arts with a particular focus on film, media and digital technologies. Since 1982 Watershed has accomplished these aims in response to changing cultures, audience expectations and developing technologies. To keep Watershed creative and dynamic we are constantly exploring initiatives and collaborations which give us the freedom to develop new opportunities so that more people from all communities can participate in the Watershed experience. A gift to Watershed will give us more creative capacity to inspire and engage people of all ages in new cultural experiences. It will help us to sustain the relevance, depth and diversity of our programmes so that audiences, artists, and the city of Bristol can continue to share and shape the Watershed experience and help us plan for the future with confidence. 

Read more to learn about why you might wish to support us or if you wish you can donate to Watershed now. Your donation has an impact and will make a real difference. Thank you.

I heard you were a social enterprise – tell me more
A social enterprise can be defined as a business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community. Watershed is the first arts organisation in the South West to be awarded the ‘Social Enterprise Mark’, a label that lets people know that Watershed is creating a social benefit for Bristol and beyond. 
How many people work at Watershed?
Watershed employs a full-time equivalent of 86 staff across the organisation. Keep a look out for opportunities to join the team.
How can I get involved with the activities at Watershed?
There are lots of ways to get involved with Watershed and this website is one of the best ways to find out about them. The What’s On section lists all the films on show plus events. There are Q&As with directors and guest speakers, chances to test new applications of mobile technologies, opportunities to submit your work to short film competitions, street games to play, and updates on current research through the Pervasive Media Studio lunchtime talks. The ‘Opportunities’ section of this site details opportunities such as workshops and programmes for young people, commissioning schemes exploring pervasive media, and bursaries for artists to develop their practice. Also you might like to sign up to our email list for weekly updates, or follow us on Twitter for more informal chat and insights into Watershed activities.
How does Watershed choose what films to show? Who does it and why?
The world of cinema is largely dominated by Hollywood and what are termed 'mainstream' commercial films. However there are films made all over the world and Watershed’s role is to promote and profile world cinema and non-mainstream English language films, to provide a space for alternative and emerging cinematic visions. We also want to engage our audiences in a richer dialogue which we do through a range of methods from providing programme notes to filmmaker talks and publishing online at DShed. A key part of delivering the programme is through partnership/collaboration
with other individuals or organisations eg Afrika Eye festival and Encounters Film Festival. Our approach is to do things ‘with’ people not ‘for’ people.
The person with overall responsibiity for the film programme is Mark Cosgrove who produces a monthly podcast in which he gives his take on some of the upcoming programme highlights – including films, festivals, events and cross-artform developments and debates.
How can young people get involved with Watershed?
Watershed works with groups of Bristol young people – including those who are marginalised– to make sure their diverse, distinct and powerful voices are heard, and everyone is given a chance to develop their digital skills. We are committed to helping young people grow and flourish – it develops their creativity and skills, enables us to remain timely and relevant, and contributes vital talent to the cultural sector to ensure it continues to thrive.

Examples of our current engagement programmes include the BFI Film Academy, which identifies and nurtures young film talent aged 16 – 19 and the Future Producers programme for 18 – 24 year olds that develops their capacity to realise projects and ideas. We also run Rife Magazine which is Bristol’s youth-led online platform featuring content from young journalists who are mentored to cover stories covering all areas and walks of life creating online content that matters to them. Find out more about Rife. We also offer a £4.50 discounted cinema ticket for all screenings, any time any day of the week for everyone aged 24 and under.

What's on for families at Watershed?
Families can find current events for on our dedicated What's On For Families page. Our year-round programme for families includes Cinébabies - a weekly daytime screening for parents/carers with babies under 12 months; Cinékids - our monthly film and workshop for 6-11 year olds; Holiday Activities - such as matinee film screenings, colouring-in activities in our Café/Bar, and family workshops; Family Arts Festival - when each October we team up with other arts organisations to bring you an exciting programme of events as part of Bristol's one and only festival for families; Birthday Parties - our three cinema screens are available for hire, perfect for a private screening or computer gaming on the big screen. We also arrange School Screenings.
What on-site facilities are there for families at Watershed?

We have a customer lift at our Box Office and main entrance on the ground floor, that takes you to our cinemas, Café/Bar and Events spaces on the first floor. There are baby changing facilities in the cinema side female toilets, in the unisex accessible toilet and in both the male and female Café/Bar side toilets. High chairs, bottle warming and free WiFi are available in our Café/Bar and Buggy parking is available at our weekly Cinébabies screening on Monday mornings. Please note we do not have booster seats for children in the cinemas. See our dedicated page for planning your family's visit to Watershed.