Interior visualisation of expanded Watershed building

Visualisation of expanded Watershed ground floor. Image from: Childs + Sulzman Architects

Update on our building plans...

Posted on Wed 4 Dec 2019

With new funding confirmed and initial designs signed off, the first phase of Watershed’s development plans are gathering pace.

As we shared back in November 2018, we are planning a two stage expansion which will help us to meet growth in demand from audiences and partners, build our financial resilience and improve the public spaces around us. In the year since we announced our plans, we have been working with partners, architects, planners and funders to respond to feedback and build our case for investment.

The first phase of expansion will be delivered during 2020 and will see us taking over the ground floor unit next to our main entrance. We have been working with architects Childs + Sulzman to remodel this space to create a new Cinema 4 and a ground floor café deli, including seating on the dockside covered walkway and much greater ground floor visibility, access and presence, something that has been lacking since we opened in 1982. We have some exciting first glimpses of the lay out here, though the final design will of course evolve as the project continues to take shape.

Fly through visualisation of expanded Watershed ground floor. From: Childs + Sulzman Architects

This phase will also include the creation of a new ramped entrance with powered doors and a complete re-design of our cinema-side first floor toilets - providing much needed capacity, including gender neutral cubicles, a dedicated baby changing area and increased provision for disabled customers.

Watershed CEO Clare Reddington says:

“We are so excited to share a first look at our downstairs plans. The growing demand for cultural cinema is a key driver of the first phase of our capital expansion - over the past 20 years, our audiences have doubled, as has the range and diversity of our cultural cinema programme - we showed films produced in over 60 countries last year. Adding a fourth screen will significantly increase choice and enable us to better meet audience demand without reducing our commitment to programme diversity. And expanding and renewing our toilet provision is something that I am sure most customers and audiences would agree has been long overdue!”

We are extremely grateful for the first major financial support for the project, from Bristol City Council who, recognising the ongoing importance of Watershed in the cultural and creative infrastructure of the city, have agreed a new peppercorn lease, effectively committing £500,000 to the project over 20 years. Following this commitment from Bristol City Council, we have also secured support from Garfield Weston Foundation and The John James Bristol Foundation of £100,000 each, and have a range of significant funding bids under consideration.

Planning and listed building consents for the first phase of our plans were granted in the summer and we have a new project team in place – including Project Director Sarah Smith who has worked on capital projects for Bristol Old Vic, Tobacco Factory Theatres and Colston Hall, and fundraising consultant Lauren Scholey, former Executive Director of Tobacco Factory Theatres.

Alongside progressing the first phase of our development we are also working on the detailed plans for the Watershed Studios extension – the second phase of our development. We have appointed Avison Young as Planning consultants and Gavin Bridge of Cubex (responsible for projects including Finzel’s Reach) and Steven Evans formerly of West of England LEP, have joined our Capital board.

We will continue our fundraising and share some invites to get involved in early 2020. If you have any feedback or questions about any of the planned developments, please send them to or via social media (Twitter @wshed or Facebook).