The Early Days
The Waterfront was originally created as a venue to cater for the needs of the local music scene. In part at least as a result of the Norwich Venue Campaign which was generated in the Mid 1980s when on St Stephens was shut down, creating a real vacuum in the local scene and a desperate need for a small to medium sized venue. The Campaign continued for several years, many local musicians being at the forefront, including Charlie Robinson and Jason Delf of The Kaisers Advisors, Simon Delf, Kevin O'Connor of Tom Smith of to name a few.
Eventually the Council were forthcoming in providing the property, a disused Brewery in King's Street in Norwich, The venue was designed by Ben Kelly Architects (Citation needed) who was responsible for The Hacienda in Manchester (Fac 51). Norwich City Council also allocating a budget and a certain amount of funds towards the running costs, ultimately the Venue was to become self-sustaining based on revenues generated by gigs and events.
The venue opened in 1991, offering two stages, two bars, one cafe bar, rehearsal rooms, equipment hire and space hire. The Waterfront Ltd was run by a consortium, with a board consisting of a director and various members of the Venue Campaign as advisors. The ethos was very much about promoting new music and giving local bands ample opportunity to act as support or use the venue for hire, as a model this provided Norwich with an eclectic mix of events and became the focus of "Sound City 92" an initiative from BBC Radio 1, which saw the whole city at the centre of a national focus with local bands playing in venues all over the city, and in the open air on a trailer in the haymarket as well as seminars and training sessions at the Waterfront itself, 1992 also saw the an FM radio station broadcasting over Norwich from the venue, allowing local DJs to experiment in real time covering all kinds of genres in a similar community basedformat to Future Radio.
Sadly the model of promoting cutting edge acts often to minority audiences resulted in serious cashflow problems and in the summer of 1993 the Venue was forced into receivership and closed its doors. This initiated another campaign, mainly by bands who relied on the venue for their main employment as bar staff, door security and glass collectors etc. The intention being to make sure that the venue continued in some form or other. The media were widely contacted and various quite high profil support gigs were organised in an attempt to keep the venue in the spotlight with the council and The Waterfront's support.
Eventually stewardship of the venue was handed over to Nick Raynes at the UEA, with the council retaining the building as it had under the Waterfront Limited. The venue was saved, but changes obviously had to be made, this resulted in a different booking strategy, with a mix of new acts and dependable money-makers, and more frequent crowd-pleasing club nights, leading to regular weekend spots for Meltdown, Con-brie-O and the Thatcher Years, as well as regular slots from and who provided a more mainstream Club events which often more than competed with the local clubs. Revenue was being created and the venue appeared to be safe albeit in a slightly different format. In 2008 The venue celebrated 15 successful years under it's new owners.