“…and then, all the world began to roar.”

Asunder tells the story of what happened to an English town during the First World War, with almost all of its men abroad fighting 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 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, commencing on 1 July 1916, 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.

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.

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.

To commemorate the Battle of the Somme centenary, the premiere of Asunder took place on 10 July 2016 at the Sunderland Empire, one of the largest remaining music halls opened by 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.

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.


Special Commendation for Learning on Screen BUFVC 2018 Archive Award


Finalist for BAFTSS 2018 Best Experimental Practice Research Portfolio Award


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

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 and Mix by Chu-Li Shewring