Review: Kynren | Living North

Review: Kynren


The open-air extravaganza returns for its fourth year – Living North went for a sneak peek

We’re pretty sure the second week in June will be seared in our memories as the wettest week in history, as the North East is drenched in seemingly constant deluges. It’s during this week, with more than a little trepidation, that we look forward to Kynren’s first performance of 2019 – in an open-air amphitheatre. Concerns about the weather notwithstanding, we’re looking forward to watching what has been hailed as one of the best performances in the whole country.

During the drive to Flatts Farm in Bishop Auckland, heavy raindrops splatter the windscreen and our trepidation grows, but as if by magic, as we pull into the carpark, the clouds part and late evening sunlight shines through for the first time in days. You can either take a rather pleasant stroll down to the amphitheatre from the carpark (about 15 minutes) or take one of the regular shuttle buses. We’re welcomed with a pre-performance drink, and although we’re assured the performance is just as epic (and even more atmospheric) in the rain, we’re glad the blue skies have made a return. 

We take our seats and there’s a pleasant feeling of anticipation in the air as we sit facing the still lake as dusk falls around us – and then the show begins. It’s a charming beginning, as Young Arthur meets Old Arthur, with the latter telling the former that life in the North East is far from boring. If only Young Arthur would stay awake until midnight on the banks of the River Wear and count backwards from 12, a time portal will appear, which will allow him to journey through the ages. Although Young Arthur falls asleep before midnight (relatable), he wakes in time to step through the portal which rises mysteriously from the lake, accompanied by the type of music that instantly gives you goosebumps.  

From here, we make a journey through 2,000 years of British history. England is a place where many epic battles have been fought, boundaries established, and inventions pioneered, and Kynren takes you through all of that and more. From Boudicca to the foundations of the Roman fort at Binchester, from the Lindisfarne Gospels to the Viking invasion, from William the Conqueror to the Field of the Cloth of Gold, you experience it all, all the way up until the 20th century. 

As you sit and watch history unfold in front of you, it’s impossible not to feel humbled by everything this country has undergone. There’s a fine balance between the spectacular and feel-good such as the peacock-like display of The Field of the Cloth of Gold and the lively dancing at Durham’s Miner’s Gala, and the solemn. It’s impossible not to feel moved by the mining disaster depicted during the Industrial Revolution, or the reenactment of the Christmas Day football match during World War One. 

Kynren pays no heed to the old rule of never working with children or animals – and this disregard pays off. We are thoroughly impressed by the coordination and choreography on display from the young people involved, and the fact that they’re all volunteers who have selflessly dedicated hours of their time for our entertainment makes it even more impressive. It’s obviously a well-run machine, as I’m told that there’s a whopping 90 percent retention rate among volunteers, who come from all across the country to be a part of the spectacle. 

The animals steal the show for us – and many others too, it seems. The thundering hooves of the horses as they canter around the track elicits several rounds of applause from the audience, and we all coo over the lambs and sheep which are shepherded across in front of us – especially the rogue one who refuses to be kept in line with the others. There’s even a gaggle of geese which waddle through, seemingly blissfully oblivious of their starring role but cooperative nonetheless. 

The ending is nothing short of spectacular, with pyrotechnics and special effects galore – if history lessons at school had been this cool, I definitely would have paid more attention. It’s certainly something you don’t want to miss, and shows start from this Saturday 29th June. Don’t forget to visit the Viking Village, new for 2019, where you can experience the more peaceful side of Viking life – see chainmail being made at the blacksmith’s forge, visit the cookhouse complete with its own vegetable patch. and don’t miss the animal inhabitants – Highland cattle and curly-haired Wensleydale sheep. 

Visit for more information on tickets and dates. 

Published in: June 2019

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