Arts venue plans £12m re­vamp

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - News - KATE WILSON [email protected]­

PLANS for a £12 mil­lion trans­for­ma­tion of one of Bris­tol’s flag­ship arts venues have been re­vealed.

The team be­hind the Wa­ter­shed have sub­mit­ted a pre-ap­pli­ca­tion to Bris­tol City Coun­cil which could lead to a six-storey ex­ten­sion be­ing built on the ‘dead space’ be­hind the build­ing, giv­ing the busi­ness the ex­tra space it says it now needs.

If ap­proved, the build­ing would in­crease in size from 4,400sq m of space to 6,360sq m, with new workspace for more than 100 cre­atives.

The ex­ist­ing build­ing would be re­ar­ranged to make room for an ex­tra cin­ema screen.

There would also be more room for events as well as for the Per­va­sive Me­dia Stu­dio – which hosts artists, cre­ative com­pa­nies, tech­nol­ogy ex­perts and aca­demics – and for new ‘in­cu­ba­tion and grow-on’ stu­dios.

The pro­pos­als would see four storeys built on top of the cur­rent build­ing. As well as ex­tend­ing up­wards, the venue would ex­tend back­wards in the ‘dead zone’ be­tween the Wa­ter­shed and the IMAX cin­ema.

It would al­low for a sec­ond en­trance to be built at the back of the build­ing that would also in­clude some re­tail space.

Ac­cord­ing to the Wa­ter­shed, the ex­pan­sion at the rear would en­cour­age more pedes­trian traf­fic on that side of the build­ing to re­lieve the some­times con­gested wa­ter­side cov­ered walk­way.

The busi­ness has said the trans­for­ma­tion was needed to meet grow­ing de­mand for the venue but also to give it fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity for years to come.

Cre­ated in 1982 as Bri­tain’s first me­dia cen­tre, the Wa­ter­shed has con­tin­u­ally grown over the past 20 years, build­ing a rep­u­ta­tion for talent de­vel­op­ment, di­verse cul­tural cin­ema and in­no­va­tion. The cin­ema au­di­ence has grown from 85,000 an­nu­ally to 170,000, artists who work with the team have grown in num­ber from 50 to more than 150 and there are now more than 100 full-time staff work­ing for the busi­ness.

The venue has said how im­por­tant it is to have af­ford­able space for cre­ative talent to work and col­lab­o­rate in the heart of Bris­tol. But ac­cord­ing to the Wa­ter­shed, the avail­abil­ity of suitable workspace is de­clin­ing just as de­mand in­creases.

Clare Red­ding­ton, chief ex­ec­u­tive and cre­ative di­rec­tor of the Wa­ter­shed, said: “A big­ger shed would be a big­ger home for cre­ativ­ity.

“It is about ful­fill­ing in­creas­ing de­mand from peo­ple who want to visit, work and co-lo­cate with us.

“It is about cel­e­brat­ing the new ideas that are de­vel­oped un­der our roof and giv­ing them in­creased vis­i­bil­ity in the heart of the city.

“It is about en­sur­ing our build­ing is the most wel­com­ing and in­clu­sive space it can be.”

The venue be­gan


ex­plore op­tions for ex­pan­sion in 2013. The team in­volved even­tu­ally agreed that ex­pan­sion on the cur­rent site was the best op­tion.

The sub­mis­sion of a pre-ap­pli­ca­tion means the Wa­ter­shed is of­fi­cially ask­ing the coun­cil for for­mal ad­vice before sub­mit­ting a full plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion.

A con­sul­ta­tion will take place with stake­hold­ers, the pub­lic, artists, in­dus­try, neigh­bours and part­ners. This is ex­pected to run un­til March, when the Wa­ter­shed will as­sess the com­ments and find­ings.

A num­ber of open fo­rums will be held through­out this pe­riod, with the first due to take place in Jan­uary.

It is ex­pected that rais­ing the money needed for the project will take about four years. Most of it will be raised through grants and fundrais­ing.

Miriam Ran­dall, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Wa­ter­shed, said: “As well as in­creas­ing our ca­pac­ity for cre­ativ­ity and in­clu­sive in­no­va­tion, our new ex­panded build­ing will rad­i­cally im­prove our sus­tain­abil­ity.”

It is planned for the build­ing to stay open through­out the build. A con­crete plat­form would be in­stalled above the ex­ist­ing first floor, with the ex­tra four floors placed on top. The ex­ten­sion would be built off-site and then trans­ported and in­stalled onto the ex­ist­ing build­ing.

How the trans­formed Wa­ter­shed would look

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