Watershed building with the date it opened across the image.

Watershed celebrates 30 years of media, music and magic on Thu 7 June

The world was a very different place 30 years ago. No mobile phones, no internet, no iPhone apps, Facebook or touchscreen technology, not even digital cameras or video game consoles. Yet with an uncanny sense of foresight, Watershed media centre was established in 1982, the same year that Channel 4 and the Barbican Arts Centre were born, the year that saw the launch of the Commodore 64 and Sony’s first CD player, and the only year in history that Time Magazine’s Person of The Year was a computer.

The world was a very different place 30 years ago. No mobile phones, no internet, no iPhone apps, Facebook or touchscreen technology, not even digital cameras or video game consoles. Yet with an uncanny sense of foresight, Watershed media centre was established in 1982, the same year that Channel 4 and the Barbican Arts Centre were born, the year that saw the launch of the Commodore 64 and Sony’s first CD player, and the only year in history that Time Magazine’s Person of The Year was a computer.

Celebrating the beginnings of a digital revolution that was yet to happen, mixing film, music and art, we nurtured talent and enterprise that eventually allowed us to develop into the cultural and creative technologies hub it is today.

To celebrate our 30th birthday on Thu 7 June, we are opening the doors to all of Bristol and beyond, with 30 hours of art, television and creative work under the banner of Made in Bristol, and all for free. The Made in Bristol programme throws up a number of “I-had-no-idea-this-came-from-Bristol’ surprises, like work from John Boorman and Michael Moore, alongside the groundbreaking output of the BBC Natural History unit and Aardman Animations.

Highlights include Michael Moore’s Emmy Award winning TV Nation, commissioned by BBC TV Bristol, and two titles from Iain Canning, the Oscar®-winning producer behind The King’s Speech and Shame, whose film journey began while at school in Bedminster, Bristol. Aardman fans will be delighted to trace the animation studio’s journey from their first character Morph, through a video for Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, MTV’s most watched music video in history, to their latest feature Pirates! all made here in the South West capital.

Mark Cosgrove, Head of Programme for Watershed says

“This has been a real voyage of discovery for us with constant exclamations of "I didn't realise that had been made in Bristol!" We hope you will share that sense of discovery, joy and a little pride when you see the range of work we have uncovered; everything from Michael Moore to Sylvain Chomet, Maureen the Learner driver to Morph. It should be pointed out that this selection of 120 titles is by no means a comprehensive or definitive guide, rather it is but a sample of the creative riches that have come out of Bristol over the decades and which continue to be made. Everyone knows about Aardman, of course, but there are so many Bristol connections to cinema and TV, many of which you probably wouldn't even realise - we're showing Citizen Kane for example, because producer John Houseman went to Clifton College."

Michael Moore holding the US flag.

(Image: Michael Moore - TV Nation part of Radical 2)

In addition to 30 hours of screenings, the Pervasive Media Studio will open its doors with residents showcasing their work for all to see, including AlphaSphere, nu desine’s revolutionary electronic music instrument and the Theatre Jukebox from Stand and Stare Collective that plays stories on demand instead of records. Visitors will also have the opportunity to become part of an exquisitely enticing artwork called The Ice Book, a miniature theatre experience in a paper pop-up book.

Clare Reddington, Director of the Pervasive Media Studio comments,

"To celebrate Watershed's 30th birthday we're inviting everyone to experience some of the inspiring, unusual and innovative work that goes on here with a very special open day. As well as getting the insiders' view of the workings of the studio there will be a chance to meet the team, chat to the residents and look over some of our favourite projects from the past four years. Exciting things really do happen here - we do all we can to encourage collaboration between the different artists and digital creatives."

People looking at the Ice Book

(Image: Davy and Kristin McGuire's The Ice Book)

Watershed has come a long way since 1982, but our philosophy remains constant. As Managing Director Dick Penny puts it,

“The Watershed approach is to nurture new talent and ideas no matter where or who they come from in the spirit of diversity and convergence. We jumped early into digital production in the days before people had digital cameras and embraced the breakthrough of the internet, encouraging collaborations across disciplines you wouldn’t normally imagine together, like mobile technology and theatre; and gaming, dance and quantum mechanics. The last thirty years have seen Watershed’s role as a creative hub in Bristol mature, and we are excited about what the next thirty will bring, no doubt continuing to challenge our perceptions about art and technology, as they evolve and converge.”

As part of our celebrations we asked a few friends of Watershed to tell us what Watershed meant to them and we would love to hear from you too - please send us an email.

“The Watershed was central to my understanding of the history and possibilities of cinema. Without it I wouldn't have been inspired to produce the films that I have made, and for that I am incredibly grateful. Looking forward to another extraordinary 30 years.”

- Iain Canning, producer of The King’s Speech and Shame

"Over the last few years, Watershed has been a beacon for film and the arts more generally. It has been consistently ahead of the pack in the way it meets the needs of audiences and has delivered real benefit not just to Bristol and the South West but to the UK's creative economy as a whole."

-  Lord Puttnam of Queensgate, CBE

“Over the last 30 years Watershed has been instrumental in bringing experimental music to new audiences, whether through encouraging collaborations between music and different art disciplines or providing funding for new artists. It continues to be an honour and a privilege to support the Music Arts residency, always resulting in unexpected and thrilling new combinations between music, art and technology.”

- Charles Hazlewood, conductor

"Watershed epitomises the strength and diversity of the UK’s creative industries. At once an innovator, a catalyst for cross media collaboration, and an environment for talent to develop, be challenged and flourish. For 30 years Watershed has held a unique place in the UKs cultural, technological and creative sectors. Its value to the local, regional, international economy is immeasurable and I hope that it continues to lead the way for the UKs creative sector, as the UKs creative sector continues to lead the world."

- Tim Scott, Head of Creative Industries, DCMS

"Fairfield High School values very highly its partnership with the Watershed.  It gives students an amazing opportunity to put their classroom learning into practice in the real world of arts media and film.  This is brought back to school in the shape of engagement and excitement for learning and media as a whole with tangible improvement in attainment."

- Catriona Mangham, Headteacher, Fairfield High School, Bristol

"Although they can’t really be called siblings, Aardman and Watershed did almost grow up together, with only a few years between their birthdays in Bristol. Aardman jumped around the city for a few years but now, like Watershed’s long standing location, has established itself firmly on Bristol’s harbourside. Over the decades everything about film and media has changed and Watershed has always kept ahead of the wave, especially when it came to embracing the game-shifting digital technologies. It’s been truly inspiring to see Watershed thrive and excite people, under the brilliant maverick leadership of Dick Penny and his totally committed team. May it thrive for another thirty years and more."

            - David Sproxton, Executive Chairman, Aardman Animations Ltd.

As part of our celebrations we asked a few friends of Watershed to tell us what Watershed meant to them and we would love to hear from you too - please send us an email.