An illustration of Ahmaud Arbery

'Rest In Power Ahmaud Arbery' illustrated by Jasmine Thompson

Black Lives Matter – looking back at Watershed's year

Posted on Fri 18 June 2021

It is a year since Watershed stood in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and committed to the work we need to do. Clare Reddington, Watershed CEO, shares an update.

In this past year we have seen a Government report deny the existence of structural racism alongside the data showing the huge inequality around how the Black and Asian communities have experienced covid.  We have witnessed the rise of an establishment ‘war on woke’ and seen it play out in the culture sector - threatening our creative freedom.  In Bristol the Colston statue toppled, organisations like Rising asked the city some necessary and hard questions and Bristol council passed a slave trade reparations motion.

Much has changed and much still needs to.

We promised to share progress around our commitments and hold ourselves to account. It is hard to strike an appropriate tone of reflection when there is still progress to be made. However, I am proud of the work we have done.  I am grateful to our staff, board and partners for the seriousness in which they have engaged with the work, and for the resources and capacity we have found.

Our process and approach, which is very much still in progress, is shared here for others to question, build upon or use:  


We said we would share the demographics of the people we work with. Over the last year our inclusive data group has moved from measuring ourselves against demographic benchmarks to understanding the intersectional Balance of the organisation and how people’s identities effect their experience of working with us (Belonging). 

Today we are sharing a report containing the visualised data of Watershed staff and Board, with some information on our approach to collecting and analysing it.

Read the Watershed Staff & Board Inclusion Data Report 20/21

Sharing the data makes us feel vulnerable – about both our methodology and the results. The belonging data contains feedback around pay transparency and decision making that is useful but challenging. However, we believe it is important to share and that by doing so we hope we will inspire others to join us on this journey.

Over the next month the team will release a series of blogs and playbooks which will provide a deeper dive into the principles and detail – it is really great work. You will be able to find these on – and follow @wshed for updates.

We committed to creating an inclusive HR strategy to address diversity at every level. This is still in progress (as covid has been fairly time consuming in HR terms). However, we have undertaken experiments that have completely changed how we recruit and which are already changing the balance of our teams.

Last summer we created a set of shared Inclusive Behaviours for all Watershed staff to set out expectations around behaviour and language. These were signed by all staff and board but were not enough to enable deep understanding and culture change, we knew we needed more.

With Culture Recovery Funding we engaged Be Inclusive Hospitality to review the working cultures of our kitchen and café & bar teams – which have different needs to the programme teams and have had less chance to engage with our inclusion work.

Our most substantial commitment was the creation of Inclusion Associates, and we are delighted to be working with Aisha Thomas and Katie Donovan-Adekanmbi on training and the development of department specific plans.

We are also providing emotional support for staff who have experienced discrimination – working with Chelu Healing.


We also made commitments around the curation of our programme and the opportunities we offer. A long list of everything in our programme would be both impossible and reductive, but we’ve gathered some of the things we would like to celebrate, in a year when our building has mostly been closed:

We have continued to amplify the voices of Black creatives, organisations and businesses in the city, working particularly closely with CARGO – their brilliant CARGO classroom has shone through the pandemic.

Our online and on screen cinema programme continued to showcase Black writers and directors from Britain (including Mangrove, RealRocks) America (including Soul, Time, Miss Juneteenth, Do The Right Thing…)  and beyond – (La Haine). This week’s programme includes Mandabi, a restored print of a feature film from the ‘father of African cinema’ Ousmane Sembene.

With support from National Lottery’s Emerging Futures Fund, we brought together Zahra Ash-Harper, Bill Sharpe, Grace Quantock, Adibah Iqbal, Rife and the Pervasive Media Studio community. Towards Equitable Futures has explored new ways to invert the power dynamics of traditional futuring processes and to orient ourselves to a future with love. It has given us much to think about and action – from how we programme to what the venue feels like.

Highlights from our BFI NETWORK South West programme include a partnership with Blak Wave & Little by Little Films to design New Voices; a new talent development opportunity for 14 aspiring South West based filmmakers.  And Film Hub South West’s Beyond Boundaries 360 programme, supporting creatives from backgrounds underrepresented in the industry to further develop their skills, network and access funding opportunities.

“We are dizzy with delight at being able to promote a host of amazing films by BLACK* women directors - and not the usual suspects. Thank you FAN for allowing us to FLY!” Akulah Agbami, Sheba Soul Ensemble

Rife published a set of articles by Lucy Turner showcasing Black Businesses in the city, and completed a commissioning series for Bristol-based Black poets working with poetry editor Malaika Kegode and Rife alumni Aisha Sanyang-Meek and Asmaa Jama. Read Tanisha Barrett’s ‘The future awaits’, Shaheim Minzie’s ‘black boys’ and Rizpah Amadasun’s ‘Meanwhile’.

Oona Chanfi has just been awarded a Rife Residency to explore how Black people in Bristol feel, a year on from Bristol’s Black Lives Matter protests.

And finally today we are also sharing a data breakdown of the Pervasive Media Studio community - which predates the more recent work we have done around Balance and Belonging, and will be aligned over the next year. This report seeks to share the existing studio community inclusion data in a clear and transparent way, outline those areas we have identified so far that need addressing and most importantly, to invite the studio community to feedback and work with us to ensure we approach this area of work in most inclusive way possible.

If you have questions or thoughts about any of this work, we would love to hear them. You can reach me on or on Twitter at @clarered. 

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