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Watershed receives National Lottery funding to support communities and re-imagine a future against backdrop of COVID-19

Posted on Thu 1 Oct 2020

Watershed receives National Lottery funding to support Towards Equitable Futures project.

Watershed has received £49,500 in funding from The National Lottery Community Fund to build on and amplify the creativity and compassion seen in communities and across society during the COVID-19 pandemic through stories, narratives and public imagination projects.

Towards Equitable Futures, which has been made possible thanks to National Lottery players, will enable Watershed to work with a design team including; Zahra Ash-Harper (Independent Creative Director of Inclusion), Bill Sharpe (Independent Futures Practitioner and Researcher in Science, Technology and Society), Rife (the online magazine that supports young people to have their voices heard) and the Pervasive Media Studio community to imagine, together, what is possible in the future.

“The mess we are living in is a deliberate one. If it was created by people, it can be dismantled by people, and it can be rebuilt in a way that serves all, rather than a selfish, hoarding few.” Renni Eddo-Lodge, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

The community that this project centres on is made up of approximately 165 creatives, researchers, students and companies. Drawn from cultures and backgrounds across Bristol, they are brought together through place and practice - their work is made in the Pervasive Media Studio, and they use art and creative technology to explore, interrogate and invent the future. They work side by side, meet together regularly and engage in shared action around themes like technology, ethics and sustainability.

It is a community where difference has been curated and change is common currency but which is still not fully representative. Change has happened within the interdependent structures of white privilege, patriarchy and extractive capitalism, therefore full participation has not always been possible. Watershed’s commitment to social justice, climate breakdown, the current pandemic and subsequent economic crisis challenge us to do things differently. Watershed wants to invert the power dynamics of traditional futuring processes to ensure a fairer, more equitable future.

Towards Equitable Futures will ask...

  • What does progress look like when we challenge the notion of (exploitative) growth and value the creation of (regenerative) depth?

  • What are the community behaviours that welcome difference while bonding us together?

  • How can we act as stewards of our assets (economic, social and cultural capital) while we repurpose them in service to community?

Jo Lansdowne, Executive Producer at Pervasive Media Studio says:

"We want to say a huge thank you to The National Lottery and its players for the opportunity to look to the future with courage and imagination. Built around creative technology and film the Watershed community is known for challenging the dominant structures of art, society and technology. We hope that this project will inform how we rebuild Watershed as a key part of the creative ecology, offering a model for others to learn from - a ‘regenerative compass’ to navigate the future as individuals in relation to our communities and the systems within which they exist."

Watershed is one of 51 organisations across the UK to receive a grant of up to £50,000 through the Emerging Futures Fund. The funding, from the largest funder of community activity in the UK, will help harness the creativity of civil society and amplify the voices of communities through stories, narratives and public imagination projects.

Cassie Robinson, Senior Head of UK Funding at The National Lottery Community Fund, says:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges to communities across the UK and The National Lottery Community Fund has focused on getting much-needed emergency support out to communities and the sector. But it has also demonstrated the very best of civil society, which has met this huge challenge with creativity, commitment and a desire for change. We are now seeing new ways of doing things that we might not have thought of before. 

“Thanks to National Lottery players, these new grants will support communities to consider how they can face the immediate impact of COVID-19 but also look to the future. The activity conducted by these community groups and organisations will generate learning and insights, and create space and capacity in communities so that they are able to anticipate, imagine and shape the future.”

The Emerging Futures Fund is a key part of The National Lottery Community Fund’s commitment to enabling civil society to be fit for the future – supporting organisations and the voluntary sector to create opportunities to help local communities thrive.

Thanks to National Lottery players, up to £600 million has been made available to support communities throughout the UK during the Coronavirus crisis. The National Lottery is playing a critical role in supporting people, projects and communities during these challenging times. By playing The National Lottery, you are making an amazing contribution to the nationwide-response to combatting the impact of Covid-19 on local communities across the UK.

To find out more visit www.TNLCommunityFund.org.uk.