Kynren really needs to be experienced first hand, as it’s so hard to put into words how incredible it is; but picture in your mind’s eye the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, and you’ll begin to grasp something of how spectacular this outdoor show is.
Including equestrianism, pyrotechnics, fireworks, a cast of 100s of people, water jets, incredible costumes, dramatic music and even a flock of geese… I’ve never experienced anything as impressive as this show.
It tells the gripping story of 2000 years of British history in a relentless and deeply moving 90 minute- long march through time. You’ll glimpse life under Roman rule, experience the terror of the Viking invasions, cheer at Medieval jousting, be deeply moved by the peril of the Industrial Revolution, rejoice when women get the vote and laugh, gasp and possibly cry as you witness 29 dramatic scenes unfold before you.
If you’ve been to Kynren before, then you’ll be pleased to know that they have now introduced a brand new afternoon show (Fina and the Golden Cape) and a themed outdoor park, the 11Arches Park.
You can buy a ticket to experience the afternoon at the 11Arches Park, or a ticket to watch Kynren in the evening. Or you can make a full day of it and buy a combined ticket for both the afternoon and evening – which means you’ll see two shows and make a 33% saving on the price of the afternoon ticket!
Along with my family I got the privilege of experiencing the opening day of the 11Arches Park and the premiere of Fina and the Golden Cape, and then we were able to watch the much-anticipated Kynren in the evening. In this blog post I’ll chat you through what you can expect from a day of both attractions to help you decide which you would prefer to opt for, or whether like us, you’d like to make the most of it and take in both the afternoon and evening attractions.
11 Arches Park
The 11 Arches park has a range of pushchair accessible and family friendly attractions. They open from 12 noon. The maze of fame is an immersive experience including live actors, special effects and dancing fountains. The Viking Village has reenactors showing you how people lived in Viking times; our favourite building was the blacksmiths, where you could ask questions and watch them hammer knives and other iron objects into shape. The Animal Croft is a lovely walk where you can see the sheep, horses and geese who actually feature in the shows. The Rose Walk promises to be absolutely stunning, but as it’s just been landscaped and planted, it needs a year or so to get established. There’s also a half-hourly show of the Dancing Waters where you can watch fountains dance to classical music. The Kid’s Viking Lair is a play area which is an absolute lifesaver for parents who have energetic children who need to be run ragged before sitting down to a show.
But as brilliant as these attractions are, it’s the new day time show, Fina and the Golden Cape that will have you euphoric. Featuring the same kinds of special effects that Kynren is famous for, you will experience a 50 minute family friendly show. The story line was perfect for our 5 year old to follow – a goodies v baddies plot, with equestrian stunts, stage fighting, amazing costumes and special effects. The rousing music had the crowd cheering and stamping their feet. Our audience gave the cast a standing ovation as it was absolutely seamless and incredibly impressive. Again it’s hard to put into words just how good it was, but imagine being actually inside the film Pirates of the Caribbean and you could perhaps imagine how thrilling it is.
If you are going to Kynren in the evening, you should definitely buy a ticket to the afternoon too. For a family of 2 adults and 2 children the tickets will only cost £40. That’s incredibly cheap for any sort of theatre, never mind a show this good. Throw in the 11 Arches Park to experience too, and you have yourself an absolute bargain and fantastic day out.
If you just go for the afternoon then tickets are slightly more expensive at £18 per adult and £12 per child, but it’s still fantastic value for money. I would recommend an afternoon ticket for people who have already seen Kynren and want another taste of it, or families with very small children that couldn’t cope with a late show or the drama of Kynren. Our (quite sensitive) five year old was enthralled by Fina and the Golden Cape and keeps asking if we can go back and see it again.
Jazz Band and Grub time
After the afternoon attractions close and before the stage opens for Kynren there is a couple of hours to kill. The organisers of the 11Arches Park have you well catered for, with barista coffee vans, a 1920s bar and various food vans to purchase food from (we can heartily recommend the fish and chips!) A jazz band performs relaxing music by the riverside while you wine and dine. For families, the Kid’s Viking Lair came into it’s own as we got our sleepy 5 year old to have a quick run around before settling into our seats in the Tribune for the 8.45pm kickoff. Once the show starts, there is zero chance of anyone falling asleep as you’ll be totally gripped.
Kynren is quite simply the most impressive show that I have ever seen. The stage itself is enormous, with a lake in the middle of it, and roads around it that are wide enough for horse-drawn chariots to ride around. There are many entrances to the set and new people constantly appear on it from every angle, which holds your attention far more than the most gripping TV show. The cast is enormous, with lots of local volunteers and even a large number of local children featuring in the show.
Aside from the theatrics and special effects (which are phenomenal!) the story line is beautifully put together. It is moving, dramatic, thought-provoking and it will give you goosebumps. The grand finale of the show includes incredible pyrotechnics, fireworks, music and the entire cast on stage. It makes you proud to be British and will leave you energetically waving your Union Jack flag at the end of it.
No seat in Kynren has a restricted view of the set, and you can use the online seating plan to select a seat that you most like the look of. Seats towards the edge of the Tribune at the cheapest starting at £25 per adult and £15 per child ages 4-17. Under 3 year olds go free if seated on an adult’s lap. The closer to the middle you go the more expensive the seats, with VIP seats costing £59 per adult and £49 per child. VIP seats are padded, have extra room and also give you priority boarding for the park and ride.
The 11Arches Park and Kynren run every Saturday from 7th August till 11th September. As the show ends with a firework display, the start and end times vary depending on when it gets dark. In early August the show begins at 8.45pm and ends at 10.15pm, but by September 11th it starts at 5.30pm and ends at 8pm. In my opinion the end time matters less when thinking about taking small children, (our little guy was gripped right till the very end at 10.15pm) but it might be worth being aware of the content for sensitive children – there is a sad scene about the death of miners during the industrial revolution. The sorrow of this plus an explosion sound did cause the little fellow to cry briefly. The first and second world war were covered very tactfully and didn’t cause any further tears – in fact our son loved the Christmas day football match scene.
Toilets aren’t usually something to major on in a review apart from the toilets at Kynren were absolutely spotless and plentiful. We all know what it’s like to queue at the local theatre to use one of the three toilets in the place -not so at Kynren. I didn’t queue once, and every time had a choice of throne.
Park and Ride
If you choose to arrive at the venue (which is based in Bishop Auckland) by car then you will need to purchase tickets for a park and ride to the 11 Arches Park. Parking costs £7 per car and £2 per person for the shuttle bus. Alternatively you can take a 15 minute walk from the car park to the 11 Arches Park (however, if you have children and are watching the evening show, which finishes as late as 10.15pm in August, then I’d highly recommend purchasing tickets for the shuttle bus; you can’t put a price of convenience!). Once the show has finished make a beeline for the shuttle bus to try and skip the queues. If you choose the VIP Seating option for Kynren then you will have priority boarding for the bus. If you are a blue badge holder then you can call up to reserve a car parking space right next to the venue.
I won’t lie, I was a bit daunted by the prospect of the park and ride system for a show; I was convinced that we would be waiting for long periods of time which isn’t what you want late at night with young kids. But I was very pleasantly surprised, the operation was incredibly efficient. We personally got onto a bus immediately both ends and the bus ride itself was only five minutes long.
So, is Kynren all it’s cracked up to be?
Unequivocally YES. Book tickets!
Also if you have been to Kynren and loved it, do check out Puy Du Fou in France, you won’t be disappointed.