September might not be the best month in terms of weather if you want to visit the UK, but it surely proves to be a good month for short films. Encounters, one of UK's leading short film festivals, usually opens its doors in early autumn. With its headquarters at the Watershed in Bristol, an all-year cultural venue, the festival is an important part of the city’s annual event calendar. Home to cinemas, cafés and bars, the Watershed serves as the social hub of the festival. Here, audience long-time favourites such as the Late Lounge, which shows bizarre and fun shorts, meet the diverse competition programmes. Locals meet international guests. Filmmakers meet their audience.
Founded in 1995, the festival was originally a one-off event but went on to become Short Encounters after its first-year success. As the Aardman Animation Studios, home to well-loved series 'Wallace and Gromit' and 'Shaun the Sheep', are based in Bristol, an animated focus seemed to make sense and Animated Encounters was established as a separate festival in 2001 before the two events eventually merged into Encounters in 2006. Since then the festival has become one of Britain’s main events to showcase the latest short animation from around the world. The festival once again proved its adaptability to current tendencies in short filmmaking when it established its VR competition Immersive Encounters in 2017.
If a break is needed from all things short, Encounters offers boat tours from Bristol harbour — conveniently located right in front of the Watershed — for its guests. For those with more time to spare, a trip to Wales across the river Severn on one of the two bridges might be worth your while, spectacular views and British history inclusive. Provided the weather plays along, of course. If not, there’s always an extensive programme to immerse yourself into back at the Watershed.