Photo of the exterior of Watershed with a ferry going past

Our Values and approach to Ethics

Last updated: January 2024


The purpose of this policy is to communicate Watershed’s commitment to an ethical approach across all aspects of our business and to provide partners, consultants and clients with clear guidelines for any projects or public events delivered in the Watershed venue or in partnership with Watershed.


Watershed is recognised for its internationally distinctive programme of invention and talent development; as a leading centre for film culture and as Bristol’s city centre cultural meeting and debating place of choice. As a registered charity and social enterprise, Watershed has well established brand values.

  • Inclusive

    We listen to and learn from our community, creating equity and addressing harm where it occurs

  • Transparent

    We share our approach openly and clearly, working at a pace which enables everyone to participate who wishes to

  • Responsible

    We use our resources generously and sustainably, considering our impact on future generations

  • Kind

    We are careful and caring with ourselves and with others

  • Hopeful

    We celebrate culture, creativity and wonder as paths to a better future

We apply our values in everything we do, and ask partners, suppliers, collaborators and audiences to do the same.


Watershed forefronts inclusion across all areas of its business. By producing authentic, welcoming spaces and engaged programmes, we reflect, include and champion audiences and artists from all backgrounds.

Our programmes are designed with flexibility and responsiveness at their heart, enabling us to respond to access requirements as they arise and be responsible to the changing needs of audiences and participants.

We seek to ensure all public panels and events are representative of the population of Bristol. We ask our partners to consider every aspect of their event from an inclusion and accessibility point of view. If you are working with us, or hiring our venue for an event and would like informal advice on how to ensure your event or project is inclusive, accessible and representative of the diversity of Bristol – please talk to your main Watershed contact who will be pleased to point you in the right direction.

Our Programme

Our programme is curated on the basis of cultural value and resonance with our audience, in line with the principles and objectives set out within our Business Plan, which is reviewed annually and agreed by the Board.

As a Charity, we ensure activities undertaken are in pursuit of its charitable objectives as outlined in our Articles of Association:

“The Charity is established to advance education and skills in and increase appreciation and understanding amongst organisations and members of the public of the arts, including digital arts, films, games, music, journalism, creative writing, drama, mime, opera, dance, ballet, singing, photography, radio programmes, sculpture, carving, pottery, painting, drawing, design and all other forms of artistic or creative works and whether for transmission, dissemination, broadcast, performance or exhibition in physical spaces, in cinemas, on television, on radio, via the internet, via mobile telephones (or other devices and media existing or in the future developed), or otherwise.”

Charitable law requires Watershed's programming decisions to be consistent with the Charities Commission guidance on political campaigning. This does not mean that we cannot communicate our support for issues connected to our charitable remit – for instance the importance of inclusion, the importance of funding culture, or climate justice – but does mean we ensure our programme and communications should not contain political bias or party political lobbying.

We understand that any creative programme may involve ideas or people that some members of the audience find provocative in nature. This is a necessary part of cultural innovation and Watershed cannot control how audiences react to projects or programme in every instance. Our approach to provocative subjects is to ensure we have balanced debate and well briefed Chairs who feel supported to deal with conflicting viewpoints.

Third party events

We reserve the right, at our own discretion, to refuse a booking in exceptional circumstances including but not limited to:

  • The commercial arrangement or activity bring, or is perceived to bring, Watershed into disrepute.
  • Partners seek to sell tickets for the activity without the prior written approval of Watershed.
  • The activity aims to achieve public profile through press or marketing that takes advantage of Watershed’s status and reputation or is otherwise perceived to be seeking to exploit Watershed’s reputation, without the express permission of Watershed.
  • The activity will disrupt the normal operation of the organisation, affect the organisation’s visitors or put Watershed staff at risk.

We ask external parties to let us know the content of their programme when booking and give us advanced notice of their speakers. We ask all collaborators, hires and third party events to ensure any Chairs and MCs used in their events are familiar with Watershed’s guidelines for chairing / hosting an event at Watershed.

Should programmes change, we require organisers to notify us of the new programme and reserve the right to terminate the event at immediate notice, should conflicts arise from these changes.

It is Watershed’s objective to ensure as far as possible that third party events are in line with this policy, we make every effort to achieve this, however as they are not our events we are not ultimately responsible for them.


Watershed’s fundraising is essential in helping us to continue our work and we work in partnership with donors/funders to achieve our charitable objectives. Information relating particularly to our Ethics Policy is included here, but more detailed information is available in our separate Fundraising Policy.

Acceptance/refusal of gifts

Legally Watershed is only able refuse a donation in exceptional circumstances. We undertake due diligence before accepting a donation of more than £5,000 or which seems suspicious (unexpected, anonymous or unsolicited donations or donations with special conditions) and may refuse an offer of a donation if we feel that the acceptance of the donation (monetary or in kind):

  • would be detrimental to the achievement of our charitable purposes
  • would have a negative effect on our reputation/or lead to a decline in support, if Watershed was to accept such support
  • Our due diligence will include finding the answers to questions included in The Charity Commission’s ‘Know your donor’ tool.

Decision Making Responsibilities

Watershed has established clear lines of responsibility for ethical decision making. An individual staff member facing a decision or query around an internal or external ethical issue should consult with the relevant senior manager.

Complex decisions are referred to Watershed’s Executive Team for consideration. Ultimately, Watershed’s Board is responsible for maintaining an ethical approach and unclear or high risk decisions will be referred to the Board by the Executive Team.

Watershed’s policies detail the principles that underpin how we work with audiences, artists, and staff such as our complaints process, fundraising policy and inclusion policy and can be found on this website.

Last updated: January 2024

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