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 broadcast 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 co-produced with Bob Stanley.
Screenings with live music have been performed at the Barbican, London and Sunderland Empire. Over 50+ screenings of the work have taken place in cinemas, community venues and arts spaces across the UK.
Esther has also presented the work at conferences including:
- Future-proofing Our Collections: Unleashing the Power of Archive Film · London’s Screen Archives 2020 Conference Museum of London, Barbican, London
- FAMLab Film, Archive and Music, British Council at 2018 Sensoria festival, Sheffield
- International Oral History Association 2018 conference, Memory & Narration, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
- Live Cinema 2018 Summit, Sheffield Doc/Fest
- 2018 Heritage Conference, Sheffield Hallam University
- BAFTSS 6th Annual conference, Revolution: Politics, Technology, Aesthetics University of Kent
- MeCCSA 2018 Annual Conference, School of Arts and Creative Industries, London South Bank University
- New Approaches 2017, Film London Artists' Moving Image Network, Toynbee Studios, London
- The Sound Of Memory, Sound-track / Sound-scape, Whitechapel Gallery, London
The research was awarded 14-18 Now funding in 2019 for a further tour and production of a Learning Resource with Sunderland Music Hub. This was rolled out into schools in late 2020.
In response to Covid-19, 2020 screenings took place online, with further cinema, community and arts venues screenings planned for 2021.