People at a workshop

Digital placemaking workshop. Photo by Shamphat Photography.

Talent Development at Watershed: An Update

Posted on Thu 14 July

We've been thinking about the future of talent development at Watershed, including Rife Magazine, and our current work with young people.

Like many cultural organisations across the world, the last couple of years have catalysed some deep thinking in Watershed, including how we support young creatives. Changes in Bristol, the creative sector and our own team have created a need to reflect on what we can uniquely offer.

As part of this process, we have asked the young people we work with questions about what we do, and what they want and need from us. Their answers were clear - film and creative technology is where we can bring the most value to them, by using our programme, networks and resources to offer clear pathways of support over time.

Taking this seriously has meant re-considering the position of Rife Magazine in our talent development work. Watershed Executive Producer Jo Lansdowne and Talent Lead Victoria Tillotson share some of the feedback we have gathered, and our hopes going forward.

Rife was born back in February 2014, when we invited twenty young creatives in Bristol to participate in a Talent Lab that explored what they needed from a new platform. Working with many amazing partners, it centred on publishing the voices of young creatives in Bristol and eventually, the wider South West. Around that it created a system that enabled them to explore creativity in a supportive, loving environment. Rife became the starting point for thousands of young peoples' creative journeys:

  • Rife has provided a platform for the voices and opinions of over 300 creators.
  • We have employed 47 young creatives, giving them space and guidance to develop confidence, skills, and a network of similarly minded peers.
  • We have worked with over 9000 young people through workshops, projects and events
  • Our creators have gone on to work with gal-dem, The Guardian, Rising Arts Agency, Crack Magazine, Bristol 24/7, the BBC and many more.

We are very proud of it. But it’s now eight years since Rife began and the landscape of opportunities for young people in Bristol has significantly shifted. Locally, there is a strong ecology of organisations including Creative Youth Network, Knowle West Media Centre, Trinity, CARGO Classroom, Babbasa, and Rising offering a myriad of skills and leadership development opportunities, work experience and connection points for young people.

Through the Cinema and in our role as BFI Film Hub for the South West, we develop long term relationships with young people interested in cultural cinema. Meanwhile, technology for making across other mediums has become more accessible and the results more visible and we think we can make more of Pervasive Media Studio’s leadership in this area.

For all of these reasons and more, we felt strongly that it was time for us to deeply reflect on our talent development programmes. We have spent some time talking to Rife Alumni about their experience and analysed what has really mattered to them. We have also launched Make Shift, a new regular space at Pervasive Media Studio for 18-30 year olds to come together and share experiences, as well as to meet residents from a wide range of film and creative technology backgrounds.

These conversations are offering us insight into what young people want and need now, and what it is that we do which resonates with them.

In recent weeks we have also written directly to all past Rife contributors to let them know that we won’t be publishing any new content on Rife Magazine but will be sharing their work over the coming months in a campaign of celebration.

In the Autumn we are planning to get together with our partners in the city to re-connect and think together about what has changed. We will talk to our international networks to investigate how we can build on recent programmes with partners in Lagos (Nigeria), Durban (South Africa) and Seoul (Korea) to connect our local community of young creatives with people and ideas around the world.

And then we will share our thinking for the future of Talent Development at Watershed and how we move away from a multiplicity of projects towards a strong core offer. An authentic and impactful young peoples' programme will always be core to the Watershed offer. From the re-location of our dark rooms to the opening of Pervasive Media Studio, we are an organisation that seeks to act in a timely manner, that avoids competing with others in the city and adds value where we can. We know that bringing Rife to an end will be a disappointment to some. But by continuing to be led by young people themselves, we know that what comes next will be just as good.

And in the meantime, our work with young people doesn’t stop:

  • We have spent the last fortnight running work experience in Pervasive Media Studio
  • We will be producing Film Academy South West and BFI Film Academy Bristol (our documentary film making course) again next year
  • We are supporting Pretty Digital to deliver their Grrrl Games Creative Labs (video game making sessions for girls who are 14-16)
  • We are currently developing new partnerships with St Pauls Adventure Playground and Bristol Works.