25 Sep 2021 World leisure: news, training & property
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Attractions Management
2016 issue 1

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Leisure Management - Anne-Isabelle Daulon, CEO, Eleven Arches

People profiles

Anne-Isabelle Daulon, CEO, Eleven Arches

“We’ll reinvest in the show to make sure it’s mind-blowing every year”

Anne-Isabelle Daulon, CEO, Eleven Arches
Kynren is a live action theatrical spectacular, telling the story of the past 2,000 years of British history
All the Eleven Arches actors and backstage help are volunteers from the local area
All the Eleven Arches actors and backstage help are volunteers from the local area
All the Eleven Arches actors and backstage help are volunteers from the local area

As the UK anticipates the opening of one of its most important new attractions – the Eleven Arches historical park in County Durham – a 1,200-strong volunteer cast is rehearsing for the premiere of its live-action show, Kynren.

Steering the ship is Anne-Isabelle Daulon, CEO of Eleven Arches, a Puy du Fou-style attraction that promises to bring 2,000 years of Britain’s history to life against the backdrop of Auckland Castle.

The project is the brainchild of millionaire philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer, who wanted to do something to sustain the castle and regenerate the town of Bishop Auckland. Puy du Fou is Eleven Arches’ artistic partner on the project, working to create a British extravaganza to match the quality of the French.

Purpose of Eleven Arches
Daulon, a Frenchwoman who has lived in the UK for almost 20 years, is helping to “bridge the cultures”, she says. With a background in investment banking, she’s overseeing the financial direction of Eleven Arches, a charitable foundation with a budget of £31m ($44m, €41m).

“One of our charitable purposes is education,” Daulon says. “We’re achieving that through the training of our volunteers and raising awareness and interest in history in our audience. It’s ‘stealth education’, meaning visitors learn about history without even realising.”

Eleven Arches will also boost tourism in County Durham, bringing an estimated £4.75m ($6.7m, €6.2m) to the area, and by making Kynren – which premieres on 2 July – a night show, Daulon says they’re encouraging visitors to the region to maximise their overnight stays.

“Then they will visit other local attractions, sleep in hotels and eat in restaurants,” she says. “Overnight guests spent £161 per person in County Durham in 2013. Day trippers spent only £90.”

Daulon started working with Ruffer after she was introduced by a mutual acquaintance. After he told her about his vision and his plans for the site by the castle, Daulon wrote to Nicolas de Villiers, CEO of Puy du Fou, asking if he was interested in being involved with the project.

“It’s a meeting of mind and soul between De Villiers and Ruffer,” Daulon says. “Both projects – Puy du Fou and Eleven Arches – started from the same premise, to regenerate and reinvigorate a region with a show. Both men share the same love for a region and the same passion for history. They also both believe that if you know who you are and where you came from, you will do better in life. Sometimes it’s as though they’ve known each other for decades.”

Operating on the same not-for-profit model as Puy du Fou – which puts up to £10m ($14m, €13m) back into the show every year – Daulon says: “We’ll reinvest to make sure the show is mind-blowing every year. That will build the legacy, sustainability and longevity we want to achieve. If people come each year, there’ll be more visitors to the castle and surrounding destinations.”

l Tickets for the experience – which will be performed on a open-air stage in front of 8,000 people a night – are now on sale.

Originally published in Attractions Management 2016 issue 1

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