As the vibrant and eventful summer season draws to a close, at The Riverfront we look back and celebrate all of the wonderful shows, events and activities that took place over July and August. The summer was a resounding success that brought together communities, creativity, and causes through spectacular performances and community outreach as The Riverfront once again demonstrated its commitment to fostering arts, entertainment and inclusivity across Newport.
There was a lot of diverse entertainment in both of The Riverfront’s theatre spaces this summer. WNO Orchestra presented a wonderful evening of classical music in their Music from the Heart concert which was filled with magnificent arias, duets and orchestral numbers from Verdi, Puccini, Tchiakovsky and more. Keith James presented a concert celebrating the songs of Leonard Cohen, and Live Music Now’s Aulus Duo gave a spellbinding flute and guitar performance in the final Lunchtime Concert of the summer. Dragma and her Granddragdaughters from the House of Deviant, Wales’ first and only learning-disabled drag troupe who use drag performance as a vehicle to explore self-esteem and autonomy with adults who have learning disabilities, popped by for another wild and highly entertaining evening of comedy. Families weren’t short of entertainment across August as there was a range of performances suitable for children of all ages including the magical and magnificent Dragons and Mythical Beasts, BAFTA award-winning CBeebies show Sarah and Duck, and a madcap retelling of a well-loved fairytale in Sleeping Beauty a Super Sheep Adventure.
The Riverfront were delighted to be collaborating with Catherine Dyson, Hannah McPake and Dyfan Jones to co-produce and bring a new play with songs, titled Bitcoin Boi, this July. Holding a special place in many staff members’ hearts, this project began at The Riverfront in 2020 and was brought to life this year in the studio theatre. Featuring gaming, crypto currency, an original electro music by Dyfan Jones, this Newport-grown story explored themes of grief, hope and the true price of the dreams that we are sold. The production was an incredibly impactful piece of work that blew members of the audience away.
It was a delight to host the launch of the show and welcome invaluable industry professionals to watch the incredible talent of the cast and creative team. The future of Bitcoin Boi is definitely one to watch!
The Riverfront Cinema once again programmed a diverse range of films over the summer. Action-adventure fans loved Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. There were sell-out screenings of Disney’s live-action The Little Mermaid, screenings of Disney’s brand-new Elemental, and to celebrate Disney’s 100th birthday the classic Cinderella film was screened. There were screenings of Asteroid City which was set in a fictional American desert town circa 1955 and Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken discovered that she is a direct descendant of the warrior Kraken queens and is destined to inherit the throne from her commanding grandmother, the Warrior Queen of the Seven Seas.
Back again for 2023, Big Splash returned to the streets of Newport at the end of July for a fantastic weekend of family activities, street theatre, live music, arts and crafts and so much more. Big Splash is the largest FREE outdoor arts festival in Wales and once again, attracted thousands of visitors to the city.
The Riverfront turned into Splashtonbury and was filled with workshops, arts and crafts, live music, facepainting, balloon modelling and more. The Celebrate Stage at the Big Wave drew crowds to watch local musicians, dance groups, Zumba demonstrations, culminating in a closing performance from the incredible Aleighcia Scott. Brand new for 2023 was a wonderful bell tent over at USW that became home to Children’s Poet Laureate of Wales, Connor Allen and his storytelling sessions. John Frost Square and Usk Plaza welcomed a range of incredible and mesmerising acts from Hello Buoys! to the Giant Balloon Show, Swan in Love to The Man on the Moon. Over on Commercial Street you could find performers including the incredible brass band, Wonderbrass and the fantastic young people from G Expressions performing as part of the Big Splash Busk. The Place were heavily involved this year. The venue turned into a pop up arts and crafts hub and even became the home to a number of Defying Gravity Academy performances.
The Riverfront would once again like to extend their thanks to funders and partners Newport Live, Arts Council Wales, Newport City Council, Newport Now, Friars Walk, Le Pub, Loyal Free, Newport Bus, Alacrity Foundation, Articulture, Tin Shed Theatre Co, Mercure hotel and The Place for their support in making Big Splash happen this year.
Mid July The Riverfront invited the community and industry professionals to come together to discuss how the Welsh theatre industry is responding to the climate emergency in the very first Welsh Theatre and the Climate Crisis event. A range of guest speakers came together with stories of successes and failures, progress and challenges, as everyone shared their thoughts and ideas of making theatre while keeping sustainability at the heart.
For young people looking to hone their creative skills, The Riverfront hosted an array of workshops, from Welsh and English Playwriting Sessions with Theatre Iolo to themed weekly Tots Disco and craft sessions. Oh Susannah’s Sewing Workshops once again sold out and there were free arts and arts activities in the gallery every Thursday. Nomah Dance ran a taster session for their contemporary dance classes. Filled with musicality and fun, the session was a great place for young people to start their journey into dance or develop their skills further and learn something new. Nomah Dance classes begin in the autumn with a weekly class for ages 7 – 11.
Tin Shed Theatre Co and The Riverfront ran a weeklong HATCH Youth Theatre Summer School at The Place. The fun and creative daily workshops included learning skills in game play and performance, giving young people a place to express themselves, build confidence, make new friends and have fun. Tin Shed also ran Lle Creu, a Welsh language advisory group with a particular focus on arts and creative activity through Welsh Language, Welsh culture, visual arts and Welsh Folk Music. Lle Creu will continue on the 23 September and 31 October.
Panto Press Day
Mid-August the cast of The Riverfront’s pantomime Beauty and the Beast came together for the very first time for an exciting day of activity. The team spent the day filming content and taking photos for the new poster and trailer which will be released very soon! In the meantime, you can read all about who has been cast in this year’s panto on our website here: https://www.newportlive.co.uk/en/news-events/riverfronts-2023-pantomime-cast-has-been-announced/
Girl’s Summer Takeover
The Riverfront welcomed Newport Live’s Community Sports and Wellbeing teams Girls Takeover… Summer participants for a range of sports, fitness and wellbeing sessions over the summer. These fun and empowering sessions across the 6-week summer holiday were specifically for young girls aged 12 – 18 years. At The Riverfront the young ladies took part in Pound Fit and Kettlebells sessions, joined a pompom-making craft session and then headed on a 3k walk along the riverside.
The Riverfront’s impact this summer extended far beyond the stage and the building itself thanks to a range of outreach activities carried out across the community with a variety of different groups.
Riverfront arts practitioner Heidi Mehta ran summer arts sessions at Seranau Childrens Centre’s summer fete, and at Maindee Festival there were arts and craft activities as well as a Hip hop DJ workshop with Tommy Boost and Dj Bad Meaning Good.
The Riverfront ran a series of 6 arts activity workshops at Llamau’s centre in Newport, a charity that works with young people experiencing homelessness. These workshops included bunting making, small sculptural pieces and watercolours. Theatre company Flossy and Boo also carried out outreach drama sessions with Llamau.
Leading into Big Splash there were choir sessions in the Gap Centre aimed specifically at refugee and asylum seekers, led by a choir leader who was in the asylum system herself. These sessions are supported by Take a Breath Choir tutor Laura and will continue into the autumn. Other weekly choir sessions with Cascapella and Oasis Global Choir continued across the summer.
The Riverfront also joined forces with Newport Youth Service to run a Saturday film club throughout the summer, offering an opportunity for these groups to come along and experience a newly released film that they otherwise may not get the chance to see.
Support for R&D
The Riverfront continued to offer their support and guidance to three local artists over the summer months who all took residence in the building to work on the research and development of new theatrical pieces.
Local artists Laura, Carla, Lubi and Gareth from company Heinecke/Clark worked on their new piece titled "Feierlichkeiten zur Beerdigung des Kapitalismus” / “Celebrations at The Funeral of Capitalism”, a Welsh / German collaboration. Following their R&D period, the group held a sharing event and invited their audience to share their thoughts through some guided discussion about how we move on, let go and think about living differently.
Other local artists supported by The Riverfront this summer were Jeremy Linnell with his piece Truthformation and Justin Teddy Cliffe with his piece Happinessless.
You can find out more about all of the wonderful shows, screenings, events and workshops coming up at The Riverfront this autumn and book your tickets at newportlive.co.uk/Performances.