Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Welcome to the long overdue revitalized Engine Room website! We hope you will join us in contributing to this site and to building an online community of interest that mirrors and reflects the vitality and creativity happening on the ground across Somerset community based film and media practice. The site you see now is the first step along a collaborative road, it will grow as the journey gains momentum and people like you contribute and get involved!

Here to kick off is a draft of an article I have written for Airflash, the magazine of the UK Community Media Association. It tells the story to date of the Bridgwater Town Hall Island – our home in our current form as Engine Room mk.1, and we intend to be the future home of the enhanced Engine Room 2.0

Hope to see you soon at the Engine Room or at one of our events!

Phil Shepherd
Somerset Film and Video / The Engine Room

Engine Room Album


Somerset’s Engine Room media centre is part of an ambitious plan to create a multi use community media and arts centre on the so-called ‘Town Hall Island’ in the heart of Bridgwater.

The partly redundant and run down Island is District Council owned and consists of six or so terraced properties, most of which are three storey shops. It has at its heart the grade two-listed old Town Hall, in which there is a largely intact Victorian theatre.


The Council has sought for some years to come up with a solution for the future use of the Town Hall and the wider site. They have been looking at this in the context of an overarching regeneration strategy for the town and for the rural Sedgemoor district of which Bridgwater is the key centre. Teams of consultants were employed over a period of years but to no useful avail. It was only in 2006 when the Council briefed its in-house regeneration team to prepare their own options for the site that things began to move forward. The team came up with a number of options for the site – variously led by retail, restaurant, civic - and significantly - cultural offers. These options were put to Council and to general surprise the vote taken to pursue the cultural offer.

The cultural offer was made possible through the presence and commitment of a number of local community based media and arts practitioners, including the Engine Room.

The Engine Room is located at the west end of the Town hall Island, occupying what the local Heritage Officer has described as the part of the site entirely lacking in architectural merit! A fair appraisal admittedly for a building which at various times has served as a police station, a Robin Reliant showroom and a second hand furniture store! Nevertheless, the building has done good service over the past five years as an increasingly busy and accessible resource for local film and digital media access, training, production and exhibition. Within the small building is crammed a studio, editing rooms and a café.

By 2010 however it is intended that the Town Hall Island will house a new and improved Engine Room. Engine Room 2.0 will be a purpose built community media centre for the town and county, comprising a broadcast standard TV studio, larger editing and training rooms, a disability film unit, a young people’s digital media resource, a people’s archive, free and accessible drop-in advisory facilities and a new café. Joining us as new neighbours will be rehearsal rooms for young musicians under the banner of the Strummerville project, local movie director Julien Temple’s Black Lamp Cinema, a visual arts gallery to be curated by Damien Hirst, a relocated Bridgwater Arts Centre with its strong track record in performing and participatory arts and a Living Musuem of Carnival, celebrating the heritage for which Bridgwater is famous. Local resident and Creative Director of the BBC Alan Yentob has agreed to be Project Champion for the Island redevelopment. With this level of support, the Town Hall Island is set to make waves well beyond its rural Somerset base.

When up and running, the Island will support a potent mix of community access and entry-level professional practice. It is this combination that has being developing within Somerset film and media over the five years or so of the Engine Room’s life. The seeds of this approach go back to the mid 90’s, to the start up of the Engine Room’s parent body, Somerset Film and Video (SFV).

Now an independent registered charity, SFV was set as a local authority and South West Arts initiative to encourage moving image work in the county. We worked part time from 1995 to identify and grow the network, organising screenings, workshops and production projects. The questions then, as now, were: What’s needed? How can a small pot of public money be used to make a difference, to move things forward? In 1997 we took a show-reel of work to the regional ITV franchisee, HTV. They commissioned us to make an hour of TV, a deal that ran for a few years, providing a great platform for a wider public to see locally produced work and a good shop window for the local film-makers and trainees involved. In so doing HTV helped us to create what became our unique selling point – community led and generated programmes produced to professional standards. TV is a difficult medium in many ways, anything less than high technical standards tend to disappoint. But the writing was on the wall for ‘regional hours’ on ITV and it was in part the demise of this opportunity that led us to the CMA.

How else could community generated programmes be seen beyond the communities from which they sprung? How could we sustain a local training and production sector, giving voice to local rural communities, creating access to tools and support for those who might not otherwise find it, encouraging creativity as an end in itself as well as a tool for empowerment and social engagement? Local community TV looked like - and continues to look like - a great answer to all of these concerns, hence Engine Room’s commitment to lobby with CMA for that provision - universally available and as a fundamental right. The improved broadcast studio we will build as part of the Town Hall Island cultural offer is part of that plan.

How did the cultural option succeed in the teeth of an unfavourable local economy? The Council, like most others is short of cash - and the usual tendency is to default to safer more commercial options. Culture won out in this case because the figures presented appeared to stack up more favourably than for the other options. The plan is to underpin the cultural offer with the conversion of part of the site to residential use, while assumptions are also implicit about the ability of cultural partners to bring match funds to the project. Another reason is certainly that the Council have seen the difference that creative projects like the Engine Room can make to a town centre, otherwise struggling to hold its own against the supermarkets and chain stores. They also like the joined up approach – cultural partners working closely with local businesses for the greater good. Names like Damien Hirst, Julien Temple and Alan Yentob make a big difference of course, but they wouldn’t be involved if they didn’t see the value in the mix of community access and professionalism, traditional and cutting edge elements working together.

So, our route to the Town Hall Island has taken over a decade and counting. First establishing a network, putting in place a supporting structure (albeit with minimal core funding), building the mass of participation and support required, attracting the talented staff to make it work, growing the links to other creative practice and to the wider voluntary sector – it all takes time. Organic growth is sustainable growth, not so much about one-off pots of money or fleetingly fashionable agendas, but more about a slow build of ideas, energy and commitment. We still have much to do, there is much funding to find, we are still working to establish the Island’s place in all the relevant local and regional cultural, educational and economic strategies, but, borrowing a quote from Tim Schmidt at the Eden Project, the Tinkerbell theory holds good – if enough people believe something will happen, then it will!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

About Us

Many of our activities happen at the Engine Room, our accessible base of operation comprising a studio, edit rooms and café. As the key delivery agency of media arts services for the Somerset local authorities, we also operate projects across the county, often in conjunction with local arts and community groups, public organisations and interested individuals.

Partners and Funders

Mendip District Council
South Somerset District Council
Taunton Deane Borough Council
Sedgemoor District Council
Somerset County Council
Big Lottery
Arts Council SW
South West Screen

Our Purpose

In order to sustain our fragile consensus as a society, we need to communicate with clarity and have respect for difference. Digital media is one of the most potent and forms of enabling this communication,at Somerset Film and Video and the Engine Room we aim to make these creative tools available to everyone.

About Our Venue

The Engine Room (the building) is located in the heart of Bridgwater, Somerset, at the top of the high street. Directions to the engine room are easy to follow with a handy map facility.
On the ground floor of the building is a café, which serves hot and cold food and drink from 10am till closing, Monday to Saturday.

Access For The Disabled
Our brochure is available in LARGE PRINT and audio formats. The ground floor of the Engine Room is accessible by wheelchair, with a stair lift to the upper floor. the centre also has inclusive technology - for further information please call us on 01278 433 187.

The Engine Room is situated at the top of Bridgwater's High Street (one way street). The nearest long stay car park is at Sedgemoor Splash which is signposted from all directions.

Our full address is:
Somerset Film and Video Ltd (Registered Charity 1095587)
The Engine Room
52 High Street

T: 01278 433187
F: 01278 433182
If you would like to get directions, please visit multimap.com.
By Train
Our nearest train station is Bridgwater which is 20 minutes walk from the engine room.
By Bus
Bridgwater is just a 10 minute walk from the engine. To see all the buses to Bridgwater, check the first website for details.

Friday, July 27, 2007


The Town Hall Island site showing the existing Engine Room at the left hand end with the largely unused old town hall in the centre.

Signals at green for the summer at the Engine Room with our landlords Sedgemoor District Council voting to prioritise culture in their plans for the refurbishment of the extensive 'Town Hall Island' site. A great day for Bridgwater, for our future in the town and for the establishment of Engine Room 2.0 - a bigger footprint, a low impact build, enhanced facilities and hopefully an end in sight for our well loved but creaking-at-the-seams current ex-Robin Reliant showroom home.

We look forward to working with Julien Temple's Black Lamp cinema, Bridgwater Arts Centre, Strummerville, Bridgwater Carnival and Bridgwater College to create a cultural centre of regional and inter/ national significance in the heart of the town.

Engine Room 2.0 will feature a larger, better equipped studio and post production facility together with a popular moving image archive and film library, a young people's film centre, a disability film unit plus enhanced drop in access space and cafe.

In the meantime, a full programme of training courses and production opportunities this autumn with a special Forward Motion weekend as a bonus attraction ... look out for our all new website arriving soon at www.theengineroom.net

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

catching the light

catching the light
Originally uploaded by Somerset Thrive.

one of fifty six one minute films produced through Somerset Film and Video Ltd in 2000.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


The Engine Room is Somerset's accessible community media centre and the base for the services of registered charity Somerset Film and Video Ltd. From the Engine Room we enable and undertake moving image projects across Somerset and the South West. We offer aspirants and practitioners courses and seminars in many aspects of film related practice, an advisory/information service and drop in access to our training facilities. We also offer bursaries and work experience opportunities, often on one of our production projects. We welcome newcomers to our services, irrespective of age, experience, gender or ethnicity. We are committed to access and innovation, as the core principles of our operation. find out more...