My gran, bless her, used an expression to describe the best of the best.
She called it the Bees Knees.
Last Sunday night I went a couple of miles down the road to see a show called KYNREN.
You know what? This spectacular and clever portrayal of English history is definitely the Bees Knees!
Around these parts we have all been waiting patiently for our tickets to see this show.
I predict that in years to come, it will be on everybody’s lips and on everyone’s Bucket List.
Think about the most famous open air live shows in the UK and you think of the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in 2012, or the Edinburgh Tattoo. The Trooping of the Colour in Horse Guards Parade perhaps or even the muddy Glastonbury Pop Festival in Somerset.
“KYNREN” is the new kid on the block this summer in South West Durham and judging by it’s first season, it is here to stay.
According to the Eleven Arches Facebook Page, KYNREN echoes the Anglo Saxon word Cynren which means “generation”, “family” or “kindred”. Eleven Arches is the organisation that has put this epic show together, and they felt it was a fitting name for a story that is about a heritage that spans multiple generations, that generations of volunteers will be involved in over years to come and an experience that will be shared by audiences of all ages.
The scale of this ambitious undertaking is just enormous. The stage is the size of 5 football pitches, and the Tribune Auditorium holds 3000 people to witness this epic open air show that is “jam packed” with special effects, historical facts and invasions, subterranean magic and to top it all, a huge firework display. It has reportedly cost in the region of £35m to create and the cast and crew are almost entirely made up of local volunteers, young and old, from the Bishop Auckland area.
Not a luvvie or celebrity in sight.
Eleven Arches is the vision of one man, philanthropist and investment manager Jonathan Ruffer, whose objective is to establish the town of Bishop Auckland, the venue of KYNREN, as an international tourist destination, attracting visitors and investment which will contribute to the fortune of the area and empower the community.
My wife and I had the privilege of seeing it over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
This is a night show, so it doesn’t start until the sun disappears in the west and it’s just getting dark.
It is tempting to go into detail, but to do so might spoil it for anyone booking to see next summers presentation. All I will say is that it starts with a small lad kicking a football around the grounds of Auckland Castle and breaking a window and finishes with a flag waving rendition of “ Land of Hope & Glory. For 90 minutes in between it’s a roller coaster ride through 2000 years of English history from St. Cuthbert’s long journey to his last resting place in Durham Cathedral to World War 2. It includes Roman Legions, marauding Scots, flaming arrows and even jousting knights.
The special effects are quite incredible and include a Viking Ship rising out of the water with its crew inside, a replica “Locomotion” steam train running across this land, and a tragic mining collapse which happened all too often in the communities around these parts.
Few people realise that the railways started here, crossing the ancient land of the Prince Bishops from Witton Park Colliery to Stockton on Tees.
I regularly walk my dog along the Etherley Incline which used to carry tubs of coal above West Auckland. It is now a little known but pretty footpath.
Our entry and exit to the Kynren site was a dream. It is well served by toilet facilities, food outlets, picnic areas and bars. There are dozens of friendly volunteers to greet you and steer you to wherever you want to go. The disabled facilities are excellent with several golf buggies to ferry people to and from the courtesy bus drop off points.
Disney couldn’t do it better.
There are five different ticket sections, from Diamond(£55) through to Bronze (£25) with some reduction for children. We went for Platinum tickets at £47, but I couldn’t see much advantage that the more expensive seats had over the cheapest with the exception of the Diamond seats which appeared to be padded rather than hard plastic!
You will need to be quick if you want to catch a show this year as the last one is in the middle of September. Failing that, please set yourself a reminder for next summer. The 1000 volunteers deserve your support, and you will not regret it.