Help us to Keep The Lights On for another decade! Back the Cable
The Bristol Cable

Listen: Bristol Unpacked with Watershed CEO Clare Reddington on cinema, class and council cuts

As Bristol City Council slashes spending on venues including arthouse cinema Watershed, Neil asks its boss Clare why funding the arts matters, and whether the sector’s reputation as catering mainly to the well-heeled is justified.

Listen: Bristol Unpacked with Neil Maggs

Over the past year Clare Reddington, the chief executive of Bristol’s flagship arthouse cinema Watershed, has not been shy about fighting her corner in the midst of a tough financial environment.

Back in the summer Clare, who has been at the venue for 20 years and in charge for four, sounded a warning that indie cinemas’ business model was under threat from soaring inflation and the big streaming operators gobbling their market share. This month she blasted Bristol City Council bosses for lacking a “clear cultural strategy” after they cut funding from Watershed as well as other renowned arts centres including the Old Vic theatre.

With the cash-strapped local authority struggling to keep crucial services such as social care afloat, is this simply entitled moaning from a venue – and sector – seen by some as catering mainly to well-heeled cinephiles still able to afford £6 pints alongside their culture fix? Or does that viewpoint itself represent a bad case of inverted snobbery by suggesting that only the middle classes enjoy a bit of high art?

Why does it matter that the arts get funded, even while public services are getting sliced left, right and centre? Is the picture in Bristol really bleaker than in other provincial cities? And do the market pressures facing the wider cinema industry – which have seen big operators closing their doors here recently – present an opportunity for canny independents to grow their business and expand their inclusivity?

As 2023 draws to a close, join Neil and Clare for a wide-ranging chat over these issues in the final Bristol Unpacked of the year. We’ll be returning right after the Christmas break for the rest of the season, so stay tuned.

Join 2,500 Cable members redefining local media

Your support will help the Cable grow, deepening our connections in the city and investigating the issues that matter most in our communities.

Join now

What makes us different?


Post a comment

Mark if this comment is from the author of the article

By posting a comment you agree to our Comment Policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related content

Bristol councillors vote down Marvin Rees’ final budget after bad-tempered debate

The Greens came under fire for voting against Labour’s plans without providing alternative solutions. With councils going bankrupt elsewhere in the country, the stakes are high as Bristol prepares to ditch its mayoral system.

‘Stealth closures’ of libraries leave casual staff facing hardship and city with fewer warm spaces

Dozens of temporary library closures have been announced since the council abruptly cut casual workers' shifts in November. With the council under huge financial stress, there are renewed fears for the future of the service.

Bristol City Council is nearly skint: the local government financial crisis explained

The council’s budget black hole will rise to £32m in years to come. But as local authorities reach the brink of bankruptcy elsewhere in England, something needs to give.

Healing is a justice issue: how can we radicalise the voluntary sector, amid a perfect storm of cuts?

When it comes to recovery from trauma, meeting people’s basic needs such as food, shelter, and physical safety is not enough. In an increasingly harsh environment, charities will need all their imagination and creativity to do more.

‘What the hell can people do?’ Looming St Paul’s dentist closure shines light on a national crisis

Emptying savings, travelling miles for care, DIY dentistry and worsening health inequalities – campaigners and residents have been telling the Cable what the end of BUPA’s practice on Ashley Road will mean.

Bristol’s final council-run rehab centre set to close as part of adult social care cuts

A cabinet decision to close East Bristol Intermediate Care Centre will put more than 25 jobs at risk, but the council argues that sufficient alternative services are available in the city.

Join our newsletter

Get the essential stories you won’t find anywhere else

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter to get our weekly round-up direct to your inbox every Saturday

Join our newsletter

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter

Get our latest stories & essential Bristol news
sent to your inbox every Saturday morning