‘Asunder’ The Story of One English Town in the First World War

Courtesy of Imperial War Museum

Courtesy of Imperial War Museum

ASUNDER a major commemorative WW1 centenary arts event

72 minute poetic documentary film that weaves the largely untold stories of individuals from the North East:

Norman Gaudie – a conscientious objector and devout Quaker

Robert Hepple – a19 year old soldier shot at dawn for desertion

Lizzie Holmes – the first woman in Horden to wear trousers

Margaret Holmes – a tram conductress who survived a zeppelin raid

Arthur Linfoot – a soldier in the non-combatant Royal Army Medical Corps

Bella Reay – a young female munitions worker and ACE footballer

Lisbeth Simm – campaigner for women’s rights

George Thompson – a sergeant transport driver who loved his horses


Garnet Wolsey Fyfe – a piper killed on the first day of the Somme whilst playing the pipes going ‘over the top’


Using archive and contemporary footage and audio, Asunder tells the story of what happened to a British town during the First World War.

The film reveals the stories of people from Tyneside and Wearside to uncover what life was like on the home front and Western front.

The project has a focus on 1916 and commemorates 100 years since the Battle of the Somme.

Directed by artist and filmmaker Esther Johnson, the film has a score composed by Sunderland’s Mercury-nominated Field Music and Newcastle’s Warm Digits,

performed with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and The Cornshed Sisters. The conductor is Hugh Brunt from the London Contemporary Orchestra.

The text for the film draws upon existing oral histories and diaries researched by Esther Johnson in archives across the UK.

The narration, written by Bob Stanley (Saint Etienne), is voiced by journalist Kate Adie, with the actor Alun Armstrong as the voice of the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette.

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.

Funders audience feedback at the premiere was overwhelmingly positive. Here are some of the reviews with photographs:




Courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums


07 May 2017
Phoenix Theatre Blyth, 19:30

26 April 2017
Holmeside Coffee Sunderland, 18:00

19 April 2017
Arts Centre Washington Sunderland, 13:30 and 19:00

17 March 2017
Whitburn Methodist Church South Tyneside, 19:00

15 February 2017
Pop Recs LTD Sunderland, 18:30

18 January 2017
Back on the Map Community Centre Hendon, Sunderland, 14:00

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