Arts venue plans £12m revamp
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