The Riverfront (Welsh: Glan yr Afon) is the principal and newest theatre and arts centre in the City of Newport. It is located on the west bank of the River Usk on the Bristol Packet Wharf in the city centre. Designed by architect Austin-Smith:Lord, the centre was opened on 23 October 2004.
Plans were made for the new arts centre at the same time as Newport made its bid for city status in 2002. Construction began in May 2002. The Riverfront finally opened on 23 October 2004 with a concert by Katharine Jenkins and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
In March 2004 the Riverfront came second in a vote to find Wales' most ugly building.
The venue opened with a 482-capacity theatre which went on to present a mix of comedy, opera, dance, music and drama. The Studio, seating 128, with a more challenging performance and film programme. The three workshop spaces host a range of art classes and workshops including ceramics and life drawing. The Dance Studio hosts a variety of dance and theatre classes and workshops including salsa, breakdancing, circus skills and youth theatre. The Recording Studio is hired externally and used for rock & pop and dj-ing workshops.
Every year since opening, The Riverfront has also put on traditional pantomimes over Christmas and New Year. Britain's Got Talent semi-finalist Mark James performed throughout the Christmas period as Jack Trott in Jack and the Beanstalk 2007 and Aladdin 2010.
The small art gallery plays host to a collection of local artists and other free exhibitions including photography, painting and sculpture.
The Basement Gallery is now being used for exhibitions and in 2008 hosted the Ghosts in Armour exhibition.
The Riverfront has a café and bar overlooking the river on the ground floor of the building. There is also an outdoor terrace that spills onto the banks of the River Usk.
The building has twice been awarded the title of most popular new building in Wales by the Local Government Authority.
The centre has been proposed as the home to the Newport Ship, a 15th-century vessel found immersed in the mud banks of the River Usk, although it has been suggested that the basement space may be too small to view the ship in its entirety.
The remains of the ship were discovered whilst excavating for the orchestra pit for the Theatre. Around 25 metres long and dating from 1465 the find's importance has been equated to that of the Mary Rose. During its six-month excavation, a vast new exhibition space was designed and built in self-compacting waterproof concrete beneath the foyer to house and display the discoveries, presenting the ship’s unearthing, its history and eventually the fully conserved ship itself. The design could not however compromise the existing facilities. It had to be an integral part of the building and had to be constructed around the piles already in the ground.
The ship is currently in storage elsewhere and a decision is yet to be made regarding permanent public display.