Kynren was the main reason I wanted to visit County Durham in the summer. Having read about this spectacle with a cast of 1,500 re-enacting 2,000 years of history in 90 minutes I was hooked. They call it “an Epic Tale of England”, it takes place on weekend nights in August and September and as our trip was a bit of a last minute thing, I wasn’t sure if tickets would still be available. No problem with that, we snapped them up and planned the rest of our visit around Kynren.
The whole thing is live and outdoors and has been compared to an Olympic opening ceremony in terms of its proportions. I’ve never been to one of those so can’t compare but this might just have been one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. All three of us were in firm agreement on that.
We pre-booked our parking in Bishop Auckland and also pre-booked and paid for the bus to get to and from the site where the show is staged. The car park was easy to find, we set off dressed in comfortable shoes, warm clothes with layers (it is the English summertime here) and brought raincoats with hoods. The show is performed outside and not under any cover, it goes on whatever the weather and umbrellas, due to their view limiting possibilities are not allowed. We also took no bags – handbag contents have to be emptied into a clear plastic bag and no backpacks are allowed.
We stumbled upon Clems Fish and Chip Restaurant in Bishop Auckland. I wasn’t sure what food offerings would be available on the Kynren site so we decided to dine here. It was early, we were the only people there but the food was good.
Son was not in agreement with us, but Husband and I decided since it was a beautiful evening and we had plenty of time, we would be better off walking off those fish and chips and not taking the bus to Kynren. In hindsight I wish we hadn’t booked that bus, it is only 20 to 30 minutes easy stroll from the town to the site and we ended up walking back afterwards as well.
The show is staged on a disused golf course with Bishop Auckland Castle in the background. There are volunteer guides in the town and along the route, everyone was so incredibly friendly and pleasant, the welcome was second to none. The ticket scanning, security and entrance area was also super efficient, no waiting or delays at all. This is incredible when you consider the site can host 8,000 people and everyone working there is a volunteer.
A whole host of food trucks inside looked very good – we were still stuffed with those fish and chips so didn’t sample anything but it smelt delicious and seemed reasonably priced. Son was torn between an ice cream for his treat or a bag of boiled sweets. In the end he went for a candy striped bag of sherbet lemons from a VW Camper van turned sweetshop.
We took our seats in what they call the tribune. We opted for the posh seats – only about £5 more but well worth it. I don’t think you’d get a bad view anywhere but what you get for the extra cash is a padded and extremely comfortable seat. Sounds like a small thing but take it from me, it was great. The seat was a lot warmer than the other plastic flip down seats. Space was a bit on the snug side and you did have to cozy up a little to the person next to you. Husband commented there were a few heads in the way and had the seats been more steeply banked this would have solved that issue. It wasn’t a big problem.
The show started at 9pm. Starting time varies over the summer as it starts at dusk and ends in darkness. Our performance finished at 10.30 and I don’t think my eyes left that stage area for a second. Son and Husband were equally enthralled, we loved every minute of the magnificent performance.
The story centres around a local boy called Arthur who goes back in time and experiences the most important events in English history from the Romans up to World War II.
Loads of famous characters make an appearance. St Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede (our Durham Cathedral trip before was very timely), Boudica, William the Conqueror, Queens Elizabeth and Victoria were all there as well as a life size Norman longship, a moving steam train and a host of different animals. The story is very much tailored to the area of Bishop Auckland and we saw some stirring scenes from their mining history and heritage.
There were fight scenes with flaming arrows and galloping horses. The soundtrack is original and moving and the lighting and effects are incredible. The whole thing literally finishes with a bang and an outstanding fireworks display.
All of that is impressive on its own merits, what wowed me even more is the entire cast is made up of local people, again all volunteers they are professionally coached and choreographed. Their ages range from 5 to 85. Kynren is run by a charity whose aim is to regenerate Bishop Auckland and the surrounding areas.
We left buzzing about the show. Our enthusiasm didn’t dampen the next day and we told just about everyone we met and our family and friends that they must go and see Kynren.
No traffic hold ups leaving the car park and Bishop Auckland, we were back at our hotel before we knew it. I am still puzzled how we could book the best seats in the house just two weeks before the performance. There were also plenty of empty seats, albeit in the cheaper seating area but this is an amazing show, the tickets should sell out the moment they become available. I would go back next week to see it again if I could. Son loved it so much he wants to move there and become a part of it. Praise indeed….