GLT’s editor Keeley Rodgers travelled to Bishop Auckland near Durham for a preview of Kynren which is set to wow visitors for a third season.

As the sun set behind the stunning Auckland Castle, leaving a fiery red sky, I knew we were in for something very special. But I didn’t quite anticipate just how special, or spectacular, the performance would be.

For those not familiar with Kynren, the UK’s biggest live production since London 2012, it’s difficult to summarise because, quite frankly, there is so much to it, and beyond the show itself.

One moment you’re witnessing a Roman Centurion being dragged along the ground in front of you at full speed. The next, you look across the lake to see a huge Norman longboat rising from the water, with a fierce William of Normandy and his men, ready to battle. Oh, and there’s the magnificent castle, which appears out of nowhere.

The sheep are among the many stars of the show

The sheep are among the many stars of the show

Sat in an 8,000-seat open-air theatre, with the lake centre stage, you’re taken on the most epic journey through 2,000 years of English history in just 90 minutes.

Pivotal historical moments are brought to life by the 1,000-strong cast and crew, in the most spectacular way. The show’s central hero is Young Arthur, the son of a mining family from the North East, sent on a quest by an elderly groundskeeper.

As you rattle through time, there are an impressive 29 scenes encompassing everything from the Roman occupation and the Viking and Norman invasions to medieval feasts, the English Civil War, Industrial Revolution and much more in between.

Show highlights

The beauty of a live open-air show is that every single performance is unique, the preview no exception, and you can be assured that there’ll be plenty of highlights, no matter how many times you see Kynren.

But receiving the biggest applause on the preview night were the sheep, running as fast as their little legs could carry them. They weren’t the only cast with four legs to impress. The magnificent horses were involved in some jaw-dropping scenes, not least jumping through fire, and I can’t forget the gaggle of geese flapping past in front of us. 

New for 2018 is a commemoration of the end of the First World War

New for Kynren in 2018 is a commemoration of the end of the First World War

The special effects are truly outstanding; from the arches of Durham Cathedral projected onto a fine mist to the barbed wire lighting, providing the backdrop for the poignant Christmas truce in the First World War.

The show closes with the most patriotic firework finale, with the newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth II centre stage, behind a Union Jack-clad Ginger Spice and the Beatles, who appear on a pedestrian crossing of course.

New for 2018

This year’s show includes the commemoration of two centenaries – the end of the First World War as well as the Suffragettes movement. Many of the audience were taken from joy to sorrow with a beautiful light display of poppies, in remembrance, on the castle in front of the lake.
Also new for 2018 is a family pre-show of a Georgian Animal Croft; get close-up and hands on with the show’s specially trained animals. There’s also a new-style Food & Drink village showcasing the best of the North East’s cuisine.

The Archers

What is perhaps most amazing about Kynren is that it’s entirely orchestrated by volunteers, known as Archers. There are a total of 1,476 of them, as cast and crew, and not only that, they help make the thousands of props (from shields and banners to seagull puppets and coffins) and costumes needed for the show.

A castle seems to appear out of nowhere behind the lake in front of you

A castle seems to appear out of nowhere behind the lake in front of you

And the impact on the community has been phenomenal. Not only has the show brought in much-needed investment, but, as said by many, the entire community has been brought together like never before. It’s Kynren in the true sense of the word (the Anglo Saxon word ‘cynren’ means generation, kin or a family).

From a boy of five to a grandfather of 85, there are generations involved in the show, who will hopefully be performing to generations to come.

A ‘family institution’

Jonathan Ruffer, the philanthropist who funded the show and was inspired by the Puy du Fou in France, told a preview audience he hoped Kynren would become a family institution.

He asked: “When does an inspiration become an institution? What we have here is something much more akin to Star Wars, it’s something you can come back to, year after year.”

GLT editor Keeley Rodgers meets Jonathan Ruffer, the philanthropist behind Kynren

GLT editor Keeley Rodgers meets Jonathan Ruffer, the philanthropist behind Kynren

And when asked if people thought he was mad when he first came up with the idea for Kynren, Ruffer told us: “Nobody more than me.”

For more information on this season’s show, which begins on Saturday 30th June and runs until 15th September visit

Group rates

Groups can receive a 10% discount for 10-19 tickets, 20% for 20-29 tickets and 25% for 30+ tickets for all seating categories. For those with 20 and above, the organiser and coach driver are offered free admission and free coach parking.

Useful contact:  
Lucy Watson
01388 436036