Cinébabies Watershed screening cancelled due to single complaint

It has been a regular event for new parents and carers with new borns since 2007

Bristol arts venue Watershed has had to cancel this week’s film screenings for new parents and carers with babies due to one complaint from a member of the public.

The Cinébabies sessions have been a regular fixture at the harbourside venue for the past 15 years and was started to give new parents and carers with babes-in arms (under one year old) access to the Watershed’s cultural film programme.

The screenings are exclusively for parents and carers with accompanying babies.

Of course, the new borns aren’t watching the films but the Watershed only shows films with the volume lower and the lights brighter to create a more relaxed atmosphere.

During the films, the babies are often being fed or changed, sleeping or crawling on the floor with the parents keeping an eye on the film but the point of the screenings is also for people to socialise with like-minded new parents.

Like many cinemas across the UK, Watershed has programmed Cinébabies titles from its regular programme and have never restricted what these titles are.

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They haven’t felt the need to show lower certificate films or ones that are more ‘family’ focussed as it is the adults who are going to be watching the films, not the babies.

But the Bristol City Council Licensing Authority has now received a complaint about ‘the alleged access of children to 15 and 18 Rated films’ at Watershed and the venue has decided to cancel this week’s event.

In a statement, the Watershed said: “Whilst the licensing authority are sympathetic to the intention of the Cinébabies screenings in giving new parents access to the full range of our film programme, the licensing is directly linked to the British Board of Film Classification system.

“This means at present we are only able to show 12A (or under) certificate films for Cinébabies whilst we continue conversations and discussions around what we can do to resolve this matter.

“Unfortunately none of our current films are lower than a 15 certificate which is why we are unable to present a Cinébabies screening this week.”

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A spokesperson for Bristol City Council said: “The council has a responsibility of granting and enforcing the licences of venues such as Watershed.

“Following receipt of a compliant about the screening of 15 and 18 rated films with children present, officers have asked Watershed to review the British Board of Film Classification recommendations for such films to ensure they comply with their licence conditions.

“Any decisions taken on the Cinebabies screenings have been taken by management at the Watershed.”

The news has been met with disappointment and anger from people who have used Cinébabies over the past 15 years.

Commenting on the Watershed’s Facebook page, Sophie Young called the situation ‘appalling’ and pointed out that her baby was oblivious to the films being screened.

“People know what the film is before they go and can make the choice whether they go or not,” she said.

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“My daughter happily slept through Jojo Rabbit, and The Joker and baby cinema at various places was a really important part of my recovery from postnatal depression - this is such sad news.”

Filmgoer Sarah Kate said: “Cinébabies was such a lifeline for me in the weeks post NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). During the 2018 heatwave, a morning in a dark cinema was the highlight of my week!”

Nicky Turnill commented: “I loved going to Cinébabies with my first and was so gutted I couldn’t with my second because of covid. This is ridiculous - an under one-year-old has no idea what is going on!”

“A typical case of stringent rules in place of common sense,” was Faye Palmer’s verdict. “Makes me so angry as many people benefit from this type of event. Hopefully you will find a resolution to this and can continue putting with Cinébabies as it was originally intended.”