Questions over future of The Waterfront in Norwich, after “significant decline” in trade

The Waterfront in King Street, Norwich. The Waterfront in King Street, Norwich.

Thursday, March 20, 2014
10:03 AM

Changes need to be made to strengthen the future of The Waterfront, its managers have said - after it emerged it made just £14,000 profit last year and has seen a “significant decline” in trade this year.

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The Norwich music venue is managed by the independent charity the Union of UEA Students, which is in the midst of a job-cutting restructuring.

The union is funded through a university grant of almost £500,000, and income from The Waterfront and its student services company.

But the union has posted what it described as “significant deficits for some years” and has started reorganising its staffing structure.

However, the proposals sparked an angry protest at the university yesterday, with UNISON organisers saying the future of The Waterfront , was under threat, along with 44 jobs at the Union of UEA Students.

John Lawrence, local organiser for UNISON’s Norfolk and Suffolk team, said: “Currently 44 of the 83 student union staff are under threat of redundancy despite the fact that no clear financial plan has been seen and the students have failed to be properly consulted.”

In a flyer which accompanied the demonstration, the protesters said The Waterfront was under threat, despite the King Street venue making a £50,000 profit last year.

However, both sets of figures were disputed by the students’ union.

They said 21 members of staff were at risk of redundancy, while 13 new posts had been created.

And on The Waterfront, Jim Dickinson, chief executive of the Union of UEA Students, said the £50,000 profit claim was wrong, with changes needed to strengthen the venue’s future.

He said: “The Waterfront, in fact, only made a £14,000 profit last year and has seen a significant decline in trade this year.

“The changes are designed to strengthen The Waterfront’s future prospects through more effective control of costs.”

He added the restructure would improve the union’s financial position and was part of a wider improvement plan to help post surpluses.

And he said it would not be appropriate to consult directly with students over staff redundancies.

• What do you think of The Waterfront? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

24 comments

  • Am I reading this correct? 44 staff work at the Waterfront? There is your main problem right there if correct. 83 staff at the Union? £500k grant? Profit of £14k. That's more than a lot of businesses make. Something very wrong here. Who is in charge of the finance and PR? Its not the most attractive venue inside or out. There are enough clubber's and students in the city for this venue to survive. Someone needs to ask why bands are not using the venue.

    Report this comment

    fjq11

    Friday, March 21, 2014

  • Sounds like the Waterfront is being deliberately managed towards a sell off. The Union is clearly trying to cut its overhead costs so an easy way to accomplish that is to sell off a major asset and cut risk. So take a successful venue, ruin it and sell it off.

    Report this comment

    Crazy

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • Not only that Rich, but the quality of the bands has really fallen off recently. i remember all the effort we went to with the Norwich Venue campaign years ago, and the primary aim was to offer a venue for local bands. That never really happened and B2 at the Brickmakers fills that role better.

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    Tom Jeffries

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • Would be really sad to see The Waterfront dissappear, but the bookings as stated below have been poor for the last few years. This could be because of changes in the music industry with record labels losing interest in live music and moving it to poor tv shows like X Factor or because the venue has got lazy with their bookings, its the same at the LCR. Another venue that's going down the pan is the Arts Centre, before Stuart Hobday left I was there at least once a week. In the last year I've been there twice, the bookings have been very poor lately. As for the LCR, if it's not pop there's very little choice, hence the only gig to sell out this year is The Specials who formed 35 years ago. Even the NME Tour skipped Norwich this year for the first time ever. On the plus side, we've now got Open and Epic who both put gigs on and are great venues. Whereas The Waterfront is a smelly old dump, hopefully they'll start booking the exciting acts around that the UEA can't be bothered to book any longer.

    Report this comment

    The G

    Saturday, March 22, 2014

  • It would be a great loss to Norwich if it was made to close. And yes, I agree with Lucioperca, there is a captive audience. I have been to plenty of packed out shows, and hope to continue to. But by making staff redundant as is suggested in this article, I don't see how the venue can be made better, if anything it will suffer :(

    Report this comment

    Daisy B

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • The waterfront is needed, but it has to be better than it currently is. Better sound, better atmosphere, better events. Obviously something needs to change. I personally wouldn't bother seeing a band I like there, as I know it will be rubbish. I would go to UEA or B2 though, a sits a far better experience. They need to match this. As for the club nights, just no. Never.

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    User Removed

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • Having been to the waterfront for many years,Norwich needs this venue, as over the years we have seen such a decline in music venues in this city,Clubs shutting down and then The Oval Rock house(having worked there for many years) closed its doors The Ferryboatfat paulys...etc, and this year will also see another music venue close in the city, The Eddie on Aylsham road,to become flats or a Tescos,all that will be left is the UEA lcr and the Brickmakers,for a city of over 100,000 people,The city needs this venue to stay open and the promoters who run the venue need to look at what they are promoting and to cover all aspects of peoples tastes in music,and if they get that right the venue will make money and people will be happy and come back for more.

    Report this comment

    robmil2

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • Hey moosey I concur that the music nights do need improvement and are no means at the same standard as it was in the past and to its defence it's still playing a lot of the same music from 5 to 10 years ago. I think if you take the club night and the gig venue as two separate venues the gig venue still has good music and still attempts to put on local music (rock monster) as well as large well known bands (skid row) and I think the bands that I (personally) want to see are at the waterfront, on top of that they are still regularly putting on blues nights and alternative dance nights. They cover a good range of "alternative" choices. The club night is still in no way perfect but on the right nights you can find the same great vibe that once rocked that side of the river, great music and beer prices at the lowest of most of the Norwich club scene. I think the issue with atmosphere and music is entirely down to trying to find a set music style to appeal to every one. Norwich has lost a lot of good music spots in the last decade and maybe we should not jump to seeing the last one fall off the map. I would like to know if there is any thing we can do to keep it where it is. As for the b2 brickmakers and other venues are doing a great job of supporting the music in Norwich I just feel the waterfront give a strong attempt to be a all round venue and allows my music play hard and loud.

    Report this comment

    Ted Pinnock

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • I stopped going to the waterfront years ago. Sound quality downstairs is terrible, it ruined the last few bands I've seen there as the quality was so poor. as Rich says poor sight lines too. The LCR however is excellent and had really good sound, a really good layout and it's a nice venue. Not sure how they can be so different when run by the same people?

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    User Removed

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • I disagree with these negative comments. Norwich still needs a venue like the Waterfront, especially for alternative music. I've been a regular for many years and have always found the staff and security friendly, and it's much cheaper than other clubs.

    Report this comment

    Daisy B

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • This is because the police put pressure on the venue to stop dance events such as Color!!

    Report this comment

    Norwich person

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • I would hate for this to go! By far the best place to come for a night out when you don't listen to the same old mainstream music. I actively avoid prince of wales road on a night out. Its much cheaper than most places you can for a night out. I'm all for renovating it and making it better and reopening but for it to be shutdown would be the worst!

    Report this comment

    Aaron

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • I would hate for this to go! By far the best place to come for a night out when you don't listen to the same old mainstream music. I actively avoid prince of wales road on a night out. Its much cheaper than most places you can for a night out. I'm all for renovating it and making it better and reopening but for it to be shutdown would be the worst!

    Report this comment

    Aaron

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • Originall owned and promoted by the City Council as an Arts Venue,with a Dance Studio upstairs to develop dance for local people,it lost money and was then leased to the UEA

    Report this comment

    Albert Cooper

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • The waterfront is needed, but it has to be better than it currently is. Better sound, better atmosphere, better events. Obviously something needs to change. I personally wouldn't bother seeing a band I like there, as I know it will be rubbish. I would go to UEA or B2 though, a sits a far better experience. They need to match this. As for the club nights, just no. Never.

    Report this comment

    User Removed

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • Also the Meltdown club night is horrific, so few people go these days because the DJ's are terrible and rude, the security are rude, the music is terrible. Time for it to go to pasture and a new club residency found?

    Report this comment

    User Removed

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • Hey moosey I concur that the music nights do need improvement and are no means at the same standard as it was in the past and to its defence it's still playing a lot of the same music from 5 to 10 years ago. I think if you take the club night and the gig venue as two separate venues the gig venue still has good music and still attempts to put on local music (rock monster) as well as large well known bands (skid row) and I think the bands that I (personally) want to see are at the waterfront, on top of that they are still regularly putting on blues nights and alternative dance nights. They cover a good range of "alternative" choices. The club night is still in no way perfect but on the right nights you can find the same great vibe that once rocked that side of the river, great music and beer prices at the lowest of most of the Norwich club scene. I think the issue with atmosphere and music is entirely down to trying to find a set music style to appeal to every one. Norwich has lost a lot of good music spots in the last decade and maybe we should not jump to seeing the last one fall off the map. I would like to know if there is any thing we can do to keep it where it is. As for the b2 brickmakers and other venues are doing a great job of supporting the music in Norwich I just feel the waterfront give a strong attempt to be a all round venue and allows my music play hard and loud.

    Report this comment

    Ted Pinnock

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • Yes the Waterfront and UEA LCR live line ups have gone down in quality massively over the last year. I have lived in Nottingham and Leeds over the last year as well as coming to Norwich most weekends, all three cities have similar size venues but the Waterfront and LCR seem to not be booking any of the quality acts that the similar venues are in the other cities, recent example is the upcoming Katy B tour in October, wheres the UEA date?

    Report this comment

    James

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • Well said Ted :)

    Report this comment

    Daisy B

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • I am a Waterfornt regular, its a great live venue because you get up close and personal with the bands. On top of that, its a student bar so they dont rip you off for drinks and the beer is usually flowing all night and its a great friendly atmosphere. The real problem here is a decline in the quality of some of the headline acts that have been booked in the past couple of years and the same has to be said for UEA-LCR. Some key acts toured the UK in 2013 and their absence from Norwich was disappointing: Y&T packed out Cambridge Junction but strangely no Waterfront date, Saxon sell tickets in big numbers and recently played the tiny Roadmender venue in Northampton but no UEA booking, UEA stalwart KT Tunstall usually packs the place out but no UEA date on her 2013 tour. If it were not for Bastille and The Darkness, 2013 would have fizzled out with a whimper. I am all for the upcoming and alternative bands that feature at The Waterfront, but some serious headliners need to come too otherwise you just don't generate the revenue. I went to see UFO, Magnum and Michael Schenker at The Waterfront last year and the place was rammed - you have a captive audience of 40-50 yrs olds in Norfolk who love their rock music and we have disposable income, £25 to come see our fave old bands at the Waterfront is a bargain and we will keep turning up if you just book them.

    Report this comment

    Lucioperca

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • It would be a great loss to Norwich if it was made to close. And yes, I agree with Lucioperca, there is a captive audience. I have been to plenty of packed out shows, and hope to continue to. But by making staff redundant as is suggested in this article, I don't see how the venue can be made better, if anything it will suffer :(

    Report this comment

    Daisy B

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • Personally, I don’t care about the Waterfront but I suspect that the local residents would prefer to see it go. However, why is the student union at the UEA employing 83 staff? Where is the money coming from for the salaries of these people? ….. The tax payer maybe!

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    Norfolk John

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • I'm not surprised. The Waterfront is a venue I now avoid. Neither of the rooms are good, with the main room having poor sight lines. The welcome is poor and beer prices expensive. Little is done by the venue to support Norwich's vibrant live music scene. There are so many lovely, welcoming small venues in Norwich, why bother with the Waterfront?

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    Rich Hartt

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • The waterfront is the last standing hope to the alternative scene In norwich. Now I was a regular visitor to the club itself ten years ago and recently moved back to norwich a year ago and was shocked to see the following that the venue now holds. I Got a part time job in the venue and I would still pick the waterfront over any other venue in Norwich. The beer is 150 pence a can and with entry cheaper before a certain times. I can still drink and have a full, fun night out for a ten pounds. I Concur that the music could do with a bit of a revamp but with a club as long standing as the waterfront will have to change with the times but I also feel maybe if people's opinions were voiced on there social media sites then there's a much higher chance of them playing what's wanted! I have recently seen gigs there and I would still class them as some of the best live music I have seen in Norwich. The gig scene has been short I feel across norwich as a whole and even the Uea's listing are not blowing the roof off. The Waterfront is still a fun and enjoyable venue and even tho there have been comments about the staff and security, I still feel that the waterfront Is best alternative to the prince of Wales side of the norwich club scene. It makes me sad to think that this last stand of "different" is under threat.

    Report this comment

    Ted Pinnock

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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