The Riverfront Arts Centre (often just referred to as The Riverfront or in Welsh Glan yr afon) is the principal and newest theatre in the city of Newport, South Wales. Is located on the bank of the River Usk on the Bristol Packet Wharf in the city centre. Designed by architect Austin-Smith:Lord, the centre was opened in 2004, around the same time as the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff.
The centre has a 493 capacity theatre which is equipped to present the best of the arts and entertainment world with a diverse programme mix of comedy, opera, dance, music and drama. The Studio, seating 128. offers a more intimate experience, where boundaries are pushed and emotions pulled with a more challenging performance and film programme.
The three workshop spaces host a range of art classes and workshop including ceramics and life drawing. The Dance Studio hosts a variety of dance and theatre classes and workshops including salsa, break dancing, circus skills and youth theatre. The Recording Studio is hired externally and used for rock and pop and dj-ing workshops. The theatre is also notable for its lack of an external (Illuminated Billboard – Illuminated Fascia) so unlike almost every theatre in the world the people of Newport never actually know what”s on tonight or coming soon.
The small art gallery plays host to a collection of local artists and other free exhibitions including photography, painting and sculpture.
Food & Gallery
It”s not just the arts events on offer that appeals to all tastes. the waterside setting of the riverside café and bar is perfect for lunch, a pre-theatre meal and drink or just a relaxing cup of coffee in an arts environment with views across the River Usk.
The café located overlooking the river on the ground floor of the building and spilling out onto an outside terrace is open all day and will serve a wide range of hot and cold snacks and beverages. Pre-theatre meals and special occasions from birthday parties to business lunches are also all be catered for.
The bar is located on the first floor foyer and serves theatre goers with pre and post-performance drinks.
The building has twice been awarded the title of most popular new building in Wales by the Local Government Authority.
The Newport Ship
The centre is scheduled to be the home to the now-famous Newport Ship, a 15th century vessel found immersed in the mud banks of the River Usk, although it has been wrongly suggested that the basement space will be too small to view the ship in its entirety.
The remains of the fifteenth century ship were discovered whilst excavating for the orchestra pit for the Theatre. Around 25 metres long and dating from 1465 the find”s importance was equated to that of the Mary Rose. During its six month excavation, a vest new exhibition space was designed built in self-compacting water-proof concrete beneath the foyer, to house and display the discoveries, presenting the ship”s unearthing, its history and eventually the full conserved ship itself.
The design could not compromise the existing facilities, however needed to be an integral part of the building as a whole, and had to be constructed around the piles already in the ground.