Archive stills courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums; British Film Institute; Imperial War Museum; and North East Film Archive

A film by Esther Johnson
Produced by Esther Johnson and Bob Stanley
Text by Bob Stanley
Narrated by Kate Adie and Alun Armstrong
Music Composed by Field Music and Warm Digits
Performed with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and The Cornshed Sisters
Edited by Graham Taylor
Cinematography by Mary Farbrother
Additional Camera by Esther Johnson
Sound Design/Mix by Chu-Li Shewring

Year: 2016
Duration: 00:72:00
Country of Production: UK
Production Format: 2K and Archive Film
Picture: Colour and BW
Sound: Stereo
Listing: IMDb


Asunder is co-commissioned by Sunderland Cultural Partnership and 14–18 NOW: WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, supported by The National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Sunderland Business Improvement District, Culture Bridge North East and Sir James Knott Trust.

'Asunder' contemporary footage of Sunderland and the North East


Winner of Journal Culture 2017 'Best Event Sunderland' Award
Finalist for Focal International 2017 'Best Use of Footage in a Factual Production' Award
Finalist for Living North 2016 'Performance of the Year' Award

“… and then all the world began to roar.”
Private William Finlay, Durham Light Infantry Regiment and Lincolnshire Regiment

Asunder tells the story of what happened to an English town during the First World War, with almost all of its men fighting abroad and its women and children left behind. The North East was in the front line, thanks to its shipyards and munitions factories.

Using archive and contemporary footage and audio, Asunder collages the stories of people from Tyneside and Wearside to uncover just what life was like on the home front, with bombs falling on Britain for the first time, conscientious objectors sentenced to death, and women working as doctors, tram conductors and footballers. The narrative moves from an Edwardian golden era, in which sport grew in popularity and aircraft and cars pointed to a bright new future, to a war that horrifically reversed this progress. In the Battle of the Somme, British, French and German armies fought one of the most traumatic battles in military history. Over the course of just four months, more than one million soldiers were captured, wounded or killed in a confrontation of unimaginable horror.

A film by Esther Johnson with a soundtrack composed by Sunderland’s Mercury-nominated Field Music and Newcastle’s Warm Digits, performed with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and The Cornshed Sisters.

The narration for the film is voiced by journalist Kate Adie, with the actor Alun Armstrong as the voice of the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette.

The premiere of Asunder took place at the Sunderland Empire Theatre on 10 July 2016, commemorating the centenary of the first days of the Battle of the Somme.
The Empire is one of the largest theatres in the North East, opened by music hall star Vesta Tilley on 1 July 1907. The premiere had a live soundtrack performed by Field Music, Warm Digits, Royal Northern Sinfonia and The Cornshed Sisters.

Performances with Live Music

Barbican Milton Court Concert Hall, London 20:00 12.02.17
Part of the year-long Film in Focus programme celebrating the power of the moving image and its influence across the arts

Sunderland Empire Theatre High Street West, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear 14:30 and 19:30 10.07.16
Accompanied by an Asunder inspired artistic, community and participation programme across Sunderland

Cinema Screenings

Belmont Filmhouse Aberdeen, School screening 13.09.17

Filmhouse Edinburgh, School screening 12.09.17

Filmhouse Edinburgh 15:30 10.09.17
plus Q&A with Director/co-producer Esther Johnson

QUAD Derby, School screening 10:00, Evening screening 19:00 21.06.17
plus Q&A with Director/co-producer Esther Johnson, chaired by Nigel Powlson, Journalist

Tyneside Cinema Newcastle 15:15 21.05.17
plus Q&A with Director/co-producer Esther Johnson and Writer/co-producer Bob Stanley, chaired by Holli Keeble, Head of Programme, Tyneside Cinema

Regent Street Cinema London 19:30 18.04.17
plus Q&A with Director/co-producer Esther Johnson and Writer/co-producer Bob Stanley, chaired by Travis Elborough, Writer

HOME Manchester 18:20 22.02.17
plus Q&A with Director/co-producer Esther Johnson and Writer/co-producer Bob Stanley, chaired by Jason Wood, Artistic Director of Film, HOME

Community Film Screenings

KinoKulture Oswestry time tbc 16.08.17 free
plus Q&A with Director/co-producer Esther Johnson
Jam Jar Cinema Whitley Bay time tbc 01.08.17 free
plus Q&A with Director/co-producer Esther Johnson
Miners’ Hall Redhills Durham 15:00 04.07.17 free
Sheffield Doc/Fest The Light Cinema 20:00 10.06.17 free
Holmfirth Film Festival West Yorkshire 16:00 21.05.17 free
Phoenix Theatre Blyth 19:30 07.05.17
The Cultural Spring Creative Space, The Bridges, Sunderland 10:00 02.05.17 free
Holmeside Coffee Sunderland 18:00 26.04.17 free
Arts Centre Washington Sunderland 13:30 and 19:00 19.04.17
Sunderland Quaker Meeting House Roker 19:00 30.03.17 free
Great War Weekend Tanfield Railway, Gateshead 14:00 18.03.17
Whitburn Methodist Church South Tyneside 19:00 17.03.17 free
Pop Recs Ltd Sunderland 18:30 15.02.17 free
Back on the Map Community Centre Hendon, Sunderland 14:00 18.01.17

Conference and Symposia

The Sound Of Memory, Sound-track / Sound-scape Whitechapel Gallery, Zilkha Auditorium, London 11:30–18:00 23.04.17


Barbican Contemporary Music podcast

Premiere Reviews

‘a fascinating kaleidoscope’  Chronicle ★★★★★
Asunder casts its spell’  Sunderland Echo
‘very special indeed’  Living North
‘Wonder Asunder…had Living North in raptures’  Living North

Barbican Reviews

‘revel[s] in alternative viewpoints’  Music OMH ★★★★⍟
‘Absolutely extraordinary. Immersive, entrancing experience’
‘I was very moved…still thinking about it’
‘Beautiful film/live music’
‘Absolutely class’  Storify