Photo of the exterior of Watershed with a ferry going past

Watershed Values and Ethics

Last updated: June 2023


The purpose of this policy is to communicate Watershed’s commitment to an ethical, values-driven 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.

A Watershed Group policy

While some of the requirements in this policy are driven by the particular requirements of charity law and guidance, this policy applies to activities (venue based and online) carried out in partnership with all entities in the Watershed Group, including those of Watershed Arts Trust Limited ("Arts Trust"), Watershed Trading Limited and Watershed Ventures CIC. Activities may cross the legal boundaries between the entities in the Watershed Group but there is a consistent approach to values and ethics across the Group.

Reference in this policy to "Watershed" means the Watershed Group of entities.


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. We have spent the last year working with our staff, audiences and partners to update our values and behaviours to reflect the organisation we want to be and we have just published our new set of values which speak both to the organisation we are, and the one we aspire to be:

  • 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 do not host events for fossil fuel companies or those involved in military research/activity or the promotion/sales of tobacco. We do not host public events for political parties.

Where a third party event (that is not curated or co-curated by Watershed) is proposed to be hosted in the cinema, Café & Bar or conference facilities, the suitability of the event and the person or organisation holding the event will be considered. Proposed third party events that are inconsistent or in conflict with Watershed's values and policies will not be confirmed as bookings

Limited capacity and resources means we cannot take third party bookings where the event could be perceived to be politically motivated, because we do not have resource to work with organisers to ensure balance.

We ask external parties to let us know the content of their programme when booking or give us advanced notice of their speakers. We will not confirm bookings where the event, or the organiser of the event, represents values that may be in conflict with Watershed's own values. We ask all collaborators, hires and third party events to ensure any Chairs and MCs used in their events are familiar with these guidelines.

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 is registered with the Fundraising Regulator and follows its Code of Fundraising Practice. The code sets out the standards that apply to fundraising carried out by all charitable institutions and third party fundraisers in the UK. 

Watershed’s fundraising is essential in helping us to continue our work and we work in partnership with donors/funders, whose values align to our own, to achieve our charitable objectives. We undertake increased due diligence checks before accepting a donation in excess of £5,000 or which seems suspicious and may refuse an offer of a donation if we feel that the donation (monetary or in kind): 

  • is coming from a source which is inconsistent or in conflict with our aims, objectives, values and policies – particularly our Inclusion or Environmental Policies
  • would have a negative effect on our reputation/or lead to a decline in support by if Watershed was to accept such support.

Where possible we will discuss these issues in advance of a donation/grant being offered to Watershed, or an application for funding is made, to ensure that both parties are happy to proceed.

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 senior manager responsible for specific areas of the business:

  • Programming: CEO
  • Café & Bar and Conferencing: Head of Commercial Operations
  • Property Management: E & W Sheds – Head of Finance 
  • Administrative: Head of Finance 
  • Fundraising: Development 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.

Decision Making Criteria

Documents which may be requested and referred to for guidance include:

About this policy

Prepared by Watershed Executive Team.

For any feedback or comments please email Clare Reddington CEO

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