Kynren – an epic outdoor spectacle

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A thrilling show of horsemanship
Kynren is an outdoor spectacle of epic proportions, which bursts into the summer night sky in the unlikely location of the small County Durham town of Bishop Auckland, in Northern England.
The concept of Kynren is based on the Grand Parc du Puy du Fou in France, which is a huge medieval live action theme park dedicated to the history of our Gallic cousins across the channel.
Kynren follows a rough story line of a young local boy Arthur who goes back through a time portal to witness highlights of our great English history.
Knights of the round table

It is like watching a huge live movie set with hundreds of people acting out scenes from the last 2,000 years. It has the most amazing live technical effects I’ve ever seen, with light animations, evocative original music, fireworks and live animals racing across the massive field in front of your eyes.
If you ever felt you were getting just a bit sick of all that CGI at the cinema, Kynren is the perfect antidote.

Words from God

More than 1,000 local volunteers are involved as cast and crew -many are children from local schools – and they rise to the challenge of the most impressive feats of mass choreography to be seen since the opening ceremony of the London Olympics. There is also an extraordinary cast of animals. Fabulous horses, sheep, goats, cattle and even ducks join in the performance and seem to be enjoying things every bit as much as the humans. Watching the beautiful white horses racing across the enormous landscaped stage the size of five football fields, jousting in coloured livery or heading off with their knights into battle is quite thrilling.

Star sheep

The energy of the whole event was exceptional and the man made lake in the middle of the performance area was used to great effect with  huge set pieces rising out of it, as if from nowhere. A life sized Viking ship, a series of arches representing the tunnels of the coal mines of the industrial revolution and characters were able to walk across the water and create set pieces with water jets and incredible lighting effects. At one point giant jets of water created illuminated arches evoking the title of this incredible event.

Miners head off underground

With the windows of Auckland castle ablaze with lights in the background, the people of County Durham acquitted themselves with a pride and enthusiasm which was impossible not to warm to. Everyone was involved, all shapes and sizes, including a tiny tot of about three who determinedly kept up the performance pace in the set piece. With such a distance to cover across the stage for the soldiers, the villagers, the farmers, the miners, the courtiers, dawdling was not an option and everyone skipped (with varying degrees of success) and ran and danced with practised speed.

Fireworks over West Auckland

Watching Queen Elizabeth gliding across the water in her illuminated boat having a conversation with William Shakespeare, while characters came to life in scenes from his famous plays was one of many highlights for me. Who could forget the full size replica of Stephenson’s Rocket steam locomotive puffing across the field with everyone rejoicing in the first steam train on the Stockton to Darlington railway line.

Doing the locomotion

Serious skipping
Kynren evokes those huge Hollywood heyday blockbusters of the late 1950’s with thousands of extras – Ben Hur and the Ten Commandments spring to mind – and is a feast for the eyes, the ears and the heart.I especially loved the horses. There were 34 of them – all housed on site, including elegant Lusitanos from Portugal and Spain for riding, Wielkopolski carriage horses from Poland and Kladrubers from the Czech Republic. There were also eight heavyweight Percherons from Normandy, to pull the carts and wagons on stage.  All the horses were grey in order stand out at night.
Horse power

Listed by Rough Guides as one of the world’s top 10 must-see tourist attractions to experience in 2016 Kynren is a surprising and delightful way to spend a summer evening in England. Some spectators may have come dressed as if ascending to Everest base camp (this is the North East of England after all,) but as we wound our way back up to the car, past the food village and the ‘proper’ toilets and the lovely landscaped wild flower banks, everyone was quietly in awe of what they had just seen. The super friendly greeters made everyone feel at home and were obviously so proud of being involved with such a special event, it was quite moving. There wasn’t a spare seat in the 8,000 stadium – dubbed the Tribune -either.

A flaming procession
This extremely ambitious project is the vision of philanthropist and investment manager Jonathan

Ruffer.  Eleven Arches is one of two charities he has established in Bishop Auckland, the other being Auckland Castle Trust.  Together, the aim of the charities is to establish Bishop Auckland as an international tourist destination, attracting visitors and investment which will contribute to the fortune of the area and empower the community. If anyone can do it – he can. Kynren will be back in 2017 with more large scale spectacle so watch this space!