Watershed, Bristol – innovation in media and the arts


Watershed in Bristol, is now an established arts institution – which operates in a number of different dimensions. It is a significant local presence at the retail level – as a building on the waterfront that contains three cinemas, a cafe, a bar and a restaurant.  Still more significantly it runs several different processes whose aim is to generate and develop inspirations in the arts (as the currency of meaning, and hence the shaper of our culture) especially in theatre, film and other media.

The aim of the Pervasive Media Studio is to be a curated Open Innovation Space:

–  housing a limited number of carefully selected innovators working in a variety

of  different disciplines.

–  in an ambience whose essence is open-ness but curated – with happenings that

are designed around supporting creativity and interactivity.

The studio forms a unique kind of innovation workshop; it is indeed a workshop in the sense of being a physical space; and it is one that is in continuous session, in which people from different disciplines are brought to work together on their different projects, in a common environment that is carefully curated.

Through its subsidiary iShed, Watershed also runs several different kinds of innovation workshops and investment schemes (namely media sandbox and theatre sandbox.)

For the Sandbox projects, iShed runs one-day ideas generation workshops : theatre sandbox, a star in the firmament of the Arts council, is now run nationally with bases in six regional theatres. A similar process is run for people with ideas in digital media.

The concept of the Sandpit (See EPSRC’s Sandpits, above) is that of a

short period in which people from different disciplines are brought together to address a particular issue (eg in relation to health, wealth or wellbeing) to identify problems or opportunities and to develop ways forward. Watershed’s iShed takes aspects of the Sandpit concept and gives them a new and fuller life. It does this by:

– providing a much longer development period – of three months

– often (but not always) by extending the inter-disciplinary nature of the arena by

virtue of housing together and in the same big room a (carefully selected) number of

complementary projects

– by providing support that is relevant to the particular moment of each and

every project

– by ‘curating’ a space and an ambience that includes happenings designed to

stimulate creativity, openness, sharing and development

– by requiring everyone to identify their learnings, which are then e-disseminated to

a wider audience.

The Pervasive Media Studio brings together a collection of people with ideas who would not easily find homes for their work elsewhere, whose projects are based around pervasive media. Organisations associated with Watershed (among them Bristol City Council, Hewlett-Packard and Nokia) bring projects of various kinds to Watershed.



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