Stuart Forster’s Kynren review time travels back through England’s history in a performance epic.
Kynren is a spectacle based around key events from England’s history. As many as 8,000 spectators can attend each performance of the outdoor show at 11Arches Park in Bishop Auckland, County Durham.
Marketing for Kynren describes it as ‘an epic tale of England’. The name of the show is inspired by the word ‘cynren’ used during Anglo-Saxon times to refer to family, kin and generation. This Kynren review explains everything you need to know.
The Kynren story
The Kynren review story starts with a young lad, Arthur, kicking a football with friends. Young Arthur accidentally kicks the ball through the window of a house. That glass-shattering accident results in him meeting a character named Old Arthur.
Young Arthur learns how to travel through time. The youngster subsequently observes some of the scenes that have shaped English and British history.
During the course of the 90-minute show, Arthur views dramatic episodes such as the Roman invasion and suppression of Boudicca’s revolt, the arrival of the Vikings in Northumbria in 793 and the Norman conquest of 1066. Fencing and dancing feature as part of the meeting between England’s King Henry VIII and Francis I of France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. The Elizabethan Age, Industrial Revolution and resilience of the British people during the world wars of the twentieth century are also depicted.
Regionally significant events are also depicted among the show’s 29 episodes. Notably, they include the mention of Antony Bek as the Bishop of Durham. He was one of the powerful Prince-Bishops, who could mint their own coins and maintain an army to help protect northern England from Scottish incursions. Kynren takes place a short distance from Auckland Castle, a former residence of the Bishops of Durham.
At one point the show projects images of Jacob and his Twelve Sons, a series of paintings by the Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbarán. All but one of the original paintings was acquired by Richard Trevor, the Bishop of Durham, during the mid-eighteenth century. They are displayed in the dining room of Auckland Castle, which opened to the public in 2019.
Kynren is inspired by Cinéscénie, the show held at the Grand Parc du Puy in western France since 1978. In common with the popular French spectacle, Kynren features a cast of hundreds and starts as night falls. It features a commentary by Kevin Whately, the Hexham-born actor who has played roles in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and Inspector Morse. The show’s dramatic music was composed by Nathan Stornetta.
Attracting people to Bishop Auckland
The show is an example of a community coming together to promote a locality. Collectively, hundreds of thousands of hours of effort have gone into Kynren. The time logged includes rehearsals, training and caring for the many animals that appear in the show and, of course, the performances themselves.
More than 1,000 people from Bishop Auckland and the surrounding area volunteer to make Kynren a success. Many perform as members of the cast. The stewards who welcome attendees and show ticket holders to seats in the 8,000-seat outdoor tribune all give up their time to ensure things flow smoothly. Crew members who prepare scenery and control the sound system pyrotechnics are also volunteers.
The first spectators attended during the summer of 2016. Kynren is listed among the charity Attitude is Everything’s Charter Festivals that cater for deaf and disabled people.
The entire cast re-enters the arena for Kynren’s grand finale. The nation’s flag is unfurled amid a light show that sees fireworks burst and sparkle in the night sky. Kynren: an epic tale of England really is a spectacle with a banging conclusion.
Tell me more about this Kynren review and Bishop Auckland
The 2022 edition of Kynren: An Epic Tale of England takes place over six Saturdays between the 6th of August and the 10th of September. The starting time of the 90-minute spectacle gets earlier as the season progresses and nightfall gets earlier. See the 11Arches website for details about the dates and timings of the shows. Ticket holders are asked to arrive at 11Arches Park at least one hour ahead of the start of the shows.
Four classes of tickets are available for Kynren. Standard tickets are priced at £26 for adults. Superior seating costs £36 while the Deluxe option is £48. VIP tickets are priced £60 each. Tickets for children aged from four to 17 years old are £10 cheaper than their full-priced adult equivalents. Youngsters aged three and under can attend free of charge when they sit on their parent or guardian’s lap. It is still possible to purchase tickets online.
The show takes place outdoors and the tribune seating at 11Arches Park is open to the elements. It makes sense to check the weather forecast and dress accordingly. Consider taking warm clothing as Kynren ends after nightfall.
Kynren is held in 11Arches Park, a short distance north of Bishop Auckland. Parking for approximately 2,000 cars is available in three car parks. A park and ride scheme is available. Return tickets cost £2 per person.
Note that outside food and drink is not permitted into the 11Arches Park on evenings when shows are held. Bag checks and random body scans are carried out. Flasks, selfie-sticks and electronic tablets count among the items that are not permitted into the park.
Visiting Bishop Auckland
Bishop Auckland has a handful of tourist attractions that make it worth visiting. The County Durham town experienced regeneration through the Auckland Project, which has overseen the opening of The Mining Art Gallery, The Spanish Gallery and Auckland Tower. It also opened Auckland Castle and its walled garden to the public. The town’s Deer Park is worth strolling in to view its deer house.
Thinking of making a weekend of it? Consider visiting local attractions including Binchester Roman Fort, Low Barns Nature Reserve at Witton-le-Wear and Hamsterley Forest. Toronto, just outside of Bishop Auckland, is one of a handful of places in the region sharing names with places in North America. The County Durham market towns of Darlington and Barnard Castle are also worth visiting.
See the This is Durham website for more information about things to see and do in the county.
Travel to Bishop Auckland
Bishop Auckland is approximately five miles west of the A1(M). Join the A689 at Junction 60 to enter the town from the east.
The town is a 26-minute train journey from Darlington. Darlington is on the East Coast Main Line approximately two hours and 30-minute journey time by train north of London’s King’s Cross station.
Staying near Bishop Auckland
The Saxon Inn and Redworth Hall Hotel count among the accommodation options within a short drive of Bishop Auckland’s 11Arches Park.