City announces landmark event to commemorate centenary of the Battle of the Somme


Sunderland Cultural Partnership (SCP) is pleased to announce the launch of a major new cultural and heritage programme culminating in a large showcase event taking place in July, in partnership with 14-18 NOW: the UK’s official arts programme for the First World War centenary. This ambitious new event explores the legacy of one of the most traumatic battles in military history, the Battle of the Somme, through the prism of a single city - Sunderland. Asunder will be the first 14-18 NOW co-commission in the North East.

Asunder will see award winning film maker Esther Johnson tell a powerful story of the city’s involvement through largely unknown personal experiences. The soundtrack to the film will be scored by two renowned North East bands; Field Music and Warm Digits, who will perform live with Royal Northern Sinfonia. Guided by writer and musician Bob Stanley, the project’s Creative Producer, Asunder will premiere at a major event in Sunderland Empire on 10 July before touring the city and UK at selected venues during the WW1 centenary.

‘The performance will be alluring, poetic and political. I want everyone who sees it to take pride in the region’s unique history and to feel they can help to build its future.’

Bob Stanley, Creative Producer

Sunderland’s arts and heritage organisations will also be working with communities across the city to explore local stories and experiences and develop creative responses to life in Sunderland during 1916. Working with Sunderland Music Education Hub, Sunderland Libraries Service, Culture Bridge North East, heritage partners, artists and musicians, there will also be a programme of activity for Sunderland schools to be involved in.

Like many Northern towns and cities, young men across Sunderland were elated to sign up with some lying about their age and reaching the battle front at 14 and 15 years of age. They were seduced by the glamour of war, desperate to get away from the drudge of the coal face or other heavy industry. Asunder will explore stories of those who went away, those who were left behind and those who returned as very different people to the fresh faces that went off to war – both through the film and music, and the community programme.

Tickets will be available from February

For more information see our Facebook page on or follow us on Twitter @1916asunder #asunder16

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