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Advice - June 2016

How England’s Epic ‘Kynren’ Show Channels Community Spirit and Participation

by Juliana Gilling

When the inaugural “Kynren” show debuts for a 14-day run in the United Kingdom on July 2, 2016, it will bring together a cast and crew made up of more than 1,000 professionally trained volunteers.

Puy du Fou was the inspiration for the £31 million live-action, historical spectacular, staged against the backdrop of Auckland Castle in County Durham in the northeast of England. The French park has entered into an artistic partnership with the Eleven Arches charity to create a heart-stirring odyssey through 2,000 years of English history, with local people as the stars.

Anne-Isabelle Daulon, chief executive at Eleven Arches, hopes to “bring the community together” to deliver an educational and entertaining show that will act as an economic catalyst for the area “for generations to come.” She compares “Kynren—an epic tale of England” to an Olympics opening ceremony in terms of its scale and ambition, and adds, “It’s a wonderful journey for the community involved.”

But what does it take to harness community spirit to make a project like “Kynren” happen? Funworld asks Daulon and Puy du Fou President Nicolas de Villiers.

Bring in Experience
Eleven Arches turned to Puy du Fou’s team, knowing the park and its “Cinéscénie” extravaganza—which has played to 11 million spectators and will use 2,500 actors on stage in 2016—has become one of France’s biggest success stories. “With almost 40 years of experience, we know how to manage not only a classical company with employees, but also volunteers,” explains de Villiers. “It was important for us to transfer the spirit of Puy du Fou to the ‘Kynren’ community.”

Invite Community Support
Involve people in the process from the start, advises de Villiers: “Give them the feeling that the show belongs to them.” One way to do that is to root the show’s storyline in the region in which it takes place.

“If people feel in their hearts and souls that the show will be a success, they will follow you anywhere,” says de Villiers. “Kynren” volunteers are the show’s first audience and “ambassadors.” Audiences in the Northeast are also a key focus for marketing and promotional efforts. Impress local audiences first, and “then you can think about conquering the country,” says de Villiers.

Establish a Clear Chain of Command
“Kynren” operates as a hierarchical organization. Each volunteer actor, for example, is assigned to a group. Each group is headed by a manager (also a volunteer), who answers to a coordinator. Coordinators report to the general artistic director (de Villiers).

Share Information
Update your community and volunteers regularly. Whether it’s announcing show content or building delays, make people privy to both “good and bad news,” says de Villiers. The team provides detailed explanations of the show’s action, running order, and individual roles, to prevent volunteers worrying, “What do I do now? What’s happening now?” “Information is important because we have a huge number of performers on stage,” says de Villiers.