Costumes and Kynren 2017

downloadPicture source: The Northern Echo

This week, guests from Australia were staying and we took them to the 2017 premiere of ‘Kynren’, the stunning outdoor show in Bishop Auckland.

I even have a bag to prove it!


At this time of the year, the show begins at 9.30 (it starts earlier  when the days are shorter later in the year). This is what the stage looks like at dusk:


But it looks quite different at a different point in the show, once darkness has fallen.  The lighted Bishop’s Palace can be seen in the distance behind the Bishop’s Palace depicted on the set.


Our bag also contained a small torch, which was useful. The path to and from the performance site are lit by street lamps but once outside the site it was helpful to have a little light!


I travel to Bishop Auckland quite often (in fact I’m teaching a beginner’s quilt class there at the moment) and my route takes me past the performance site. Over the many months before the first show last year, I saw the site develop. You can get some idea of what this looked like by looking at this video here.

The performance area is huge: over 7 acres of land are used, including the river. With a cast of more than 500 people the performance takes place on a grand scale. There are almost 30 different scenes depicting a part-fictionalised, part-historic take on the history of England. The show concentrates specifically on the history of the North-East, hence the name ‘Kynren’ from Old English (Anglo-Saxon) word ‘cynren’ meaning ‘generation, kindred, family’, so its the ‘story of our people’ as one of the characters says.

The creative director of the show is Steve Boyd, an American live events director living in London. He did the mass choreography for the London 2012 Olympics among many other events. The sword-fights are devised by Mark Hindman Smith and the fireworks by Martin Bacon. However the cast and crew, numbering 1,500 people altogether, are all volunteers, who produce what is an entirely professional show. You can book to see it yourself here.

It’s hard to convey just what a spectacle it is. I saw the show last year, but seeing it for the second time enabled me to notice different aspects of the performance. With such a large cast, there are many performing on the stage (which is vast) at any one time. Then add to that: music, dancing, sword-fights, fireworks, video and lighting effects, water-fountains and much more. Our visitors were bowled over by what they saw.

For me, it was a special thrill in this year’s performance to hear the voice of Kevin Whateley, star of ‘Morse’ and ‘Lewis’.

images       Picture source:

The stage is not just full of people. Animals have a part to play too, for example sheep, goats, geese and donkeys. These appear in sections of the performance celebrating the farming culture of the area up until the Industrial Revolution.

19575430_1443626369037673_7093733116635770061_o Image source: Kynren by Eleven Arches Facebook page

Horses are key performers too, appearing in many different scenes, perhaps the most dramatic of which is a jousting demonstration, carried out at full gallop, just yards away from the first row of seating for the audience. Have look at this marvellous picture from an article by Charlotte Metcalf, who recounts the story of how ‘Kynren’ came to be created. Click here for more.

Kynren-Horse.jpg Picture source: Country and Townhouse

This brings me to the costumes, for the horses are dressed as beautifully as the rest of the cast. It is mind-boggling to think of the work involved in producing costumes for such a huge cast – and then doing any mending or alterations needed as the performances roll out. You can see below the costume for Charles I, just as one example.

19424078_1437090666357910_7150672668753785858_nImage source: Kynren by Eleven Arches Facebook page

One can only imagine the work entailed in making a whole series of costumes like these., whether for the Roman soldiers or their prisoners.


So a huge well done to the machinists, stitchers and embroiderers of the ‘Kynren’ costume-makers. Your work is sensational!

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This is my ‘Votes for Goats’ fabric design. You can find it here.

Votes for goats

Published by Amanda Jane Textiles

I am an artist, designer and maker living in Ramsgate, UK

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