Thank you Fromelles …

Well Fromelles was amazing.  Everything we hoped for and so much more.

Fromelles France 2016 1 Photographer Claire Takacs

Image by Claire Takacs

Not as big an installation as we had at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, but still sizeable, and incredibly emotional … and our tribute touched the hearts of all who visited … busloads of Australians, English, French, New Zealanders, Germans … and many more. People from all walks of life … many seeking to connect with distant (and not so distant) family and friends who fought right there … on that ground.  We are so grateful that they stopped to share their stories … it was the icing on the cake.

Cobbers was the perfect spot for us … beautifully compact and right in the middle of all that picturesque French farmland.  The Cobbers memorial is a poignant reminder of our mateship and our commitment and yes our losses … and it is sacred turf for Australians … a battle scarred plot of land … one of many in that part of the world. It is humbling to know that the French don’t forget the Australians … and still welcome us with open arms.

Phillips Fromelles masterpiece

Image by Phillip Johnson

Rural life has resumed, ducks are quacking in the background, crops are growing all around, but there are little reminders everywhere of the hell that it must have been one hundred years ago. It is truly hard to fathom the amount of devastation and loss as you sit among this incredibly beautiful, peaceful vista … especially at sunup when it’s oh so quiet and the dew is on the poppies.  The stunning image above was shot on an iPhone 6 at dawn by our Phillip … Il est beau est-il pas?

The installation was a true community effort.   Phillip Johnson’s amazingly simple, elegant design was perfect in every way.  It’s a mathematical jigsaw puzzle that he makes work on every level … and we cannot thank him enough.  We also could not have done it without the help of all of those wonderful people who came and stayed … and in particular Jean Pierre Engelen, District Gouverneur and Daniele Aurich who marshaled the troops from the local  Rotary District … they shared the load with us, among many others, and it made our workload so much lighter in so many ways.

Planting Poppies with French Rotarians July 2016 at Cobbers Day 2Planting Poppies with French Rotarians July 2016 at Cobbers Day 1So … again, thank you all for the opportunity to have done this … What an adventure we have had … and how privileged we feel to have been part of it.

Here are a couple of links to some of David Brooks’ amazing videos on the Fromelles installation.  There are many more on on both Fromelles and the Chelsea journey on Vimeo … Google search Brooksy Films.

Love Lynn and Marg

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Fromelles France … 100 Years On

What an absolutely amazing day we had yesterday on the first day of our installation in Fromelles. It was, without a doubt for me, THE highlight of my work with this amazing project since we began …

There are some 13 volunteers from Australia who are here with us for the installation including Phil Johnston and Robyn Baillieu … We were joined by 10 or 12 local Rotarians from Bethune Artois and Armentieres who welcomed us with open arms and worked alongside us. There were also quite a few Australians who happened to be in the area who also pitched in. The Australian Forces came and joined us and many many other families from many different countries who also wanted to help. At one stage I estimate maybe 60 people were working with us in the install. We were absolutely amazed at the generosity of spirit they all showed. The ground was hard and it was rather backbreaking work on a hot day in Fromelles.

At one point the Birralee Choir  …  15 gorgeous young people with angelic voices from Queensland Australia joined us … They had been rehearsing down the road at VC Corner for the centenary ceremonies on Tuesday. They sang “In Flanders Fields” … Sitting on a German blockhouse in the middle of our field of poppies … It was a breathtaking moment in time and one we will never forget.  There were a few tears shed.

So … That was our day. You were a big part of it, even though you are not here.

So many people have done their “bit” to get us here to Fromelles … From the poppy makers to those who worked so hard to pull the displays together … To those who supported us financially … To those who spread our message … Its a true team effort … Whole of community … and I am in awe of the power of our team not to mention the power of the message.

And it shows that we will not forget.

Thank you for your support

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The Battle of Fromelles : 19 July 1916

LEST WE FORGET

This month, 5000 Poppies along with Phillip Johnson Landscapes will be planting approximately 26,500 of our beautiful stemmed poppies in Fromelles at Australian Memorial Park (Cobbers) as part of the Centenary Commemoration of the Battle of the Somme.

_F5A3074An excerpt from the Australian War Memorial Website :  The battle of Fromelles on 19 July 1916 was a bloody initiation for Australian soldiers to warfare on the Western Front. Soldiers of the newly arrived 5th Australian Division, together with the British 61st Division, were ordered to attack strongly fortified German front line positions near the Aubers Ridge in French Flanders. The attack was intended as a feint to hold German reserves from moving south to the Somme where a large Allied offensive had begun on 1 July. The feint was a disastrous failure. Australian and British soldiers assaulted over open ground in broad daylight and under direct observation and heavy fire from the German lines. Over 5,500 Australians became casualties. Almost 2,000 of them were killed in action or died of wounds and some 400 were captured. This is believed to be the greatest loss by a single division in 24 hours during the entire First World War. Some consider Fromelles the most tragic event in Australia’s history. 

This incredibly poignant installation speaks to the heart of what we have created and why.  And so, again I offer a huge thank you to all of you who have contributed to this wonderful project … every one of your poppies has its own story, and each is a timeless thread of connection to those who have served and sacrificed.  It is an honour and a joy to share those stories with the world on your behalf.

This installation has been made possible through the incredible support of the Victorian RSL and with generous financial assistance from the Australian Government, an anonymous private benefactor and contributions from a funding drive by radio host Neil Mitchell on 3AW. We also want to acknowledge again the assistance of the Victorian Government and Qantas who were instrumental in getting us to Europe in the first place; and again we have a wonderful team from Australia who will help us to make this happen.

We will be installing on 17 and 18 July … the installation will be in situ until 25 July and we will be removing them on 26 July.  We will have a presence at the site most days at least in part if you’d like to call by and say hello if you are in the area.

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Chelsea

Well … Chelsea has come and gone.  And by any measure of success it was a big one.
We managed to chalk up a couple of very big firsts for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show with our wonderful display.  It’s the first time the Show had connected with the Royal Hospital Chelsea in this way, and the first time all the Royals came to visit any one display or stand … we were also the largest display they have ever featured and we had record crowds, and record press coverage.We can put much of the success down to the sheer impact of 300,000 hand crafted red red red poppies in one place at any one time … it was bound to make an impressive visual impact.
And, it would be very easy in light of the impact we have had, to lose sight of what we set out to achieve originally with this project and we are all very keen for that not to happen.First and foremost, the 5000 Poppies project is a spectacular heartfelt tribute, created by the community at large, and much love has gone into its making.  There was no other agenda … just love, honour and respect for our servicemen and women, their families and their communities and the fact that we had such a huge response is a testament to the depth of feeling in the wider community.
It’s been three years in the making and apart from those who have made poppies and sent them to us, there has been a concerted effort of a small team of volunteers who have worked tirelessly to pull the whole thing together (including volunteering their time to come to Chelsea to help with the installation), plus a select team of contributors who have helped us both financially and practically.
We would especially like to thank the Royal Horticultural Society, the Royal Chelsea Hospital, the fantastic Chelsea Pensioners … how we enjoyed their enjoyment of it …. as well as our fantastic major sponsor – the Victorian Government for helping to make our vision a reality.  We would also like to thank our official carriers Qantas for getting us and the poppies there and back, and our friends at Carpet Call, The Victorian RSL, Australian Country Spinners and Grit Communications … what an amazing team.
There are many others to thank … Ted Baillieu, Chairman of the Anzac Centenary Commitee in Victoria and his wife Robyn, the High Commission in London for putting on a wonderful reception for the team, our PR specialists in London – Four Colman Getty and at home – Zing, for their tireless work in getting our message out to the wider community, David Brooks who volunteered his time to make our wonderful videos and is continuing to do so, and of course all of those thousands of people who visited us at Chelsea … what an amazing reception we had.
I am sure you have seen many images over the last weeks … it was a very special installation. Phillip Johnson’s design was brilliant in its simplicity and in the end it was the combination of community spirit, the simple elegant design, the heart of the project and the Royal Hospital backdrop, coupled with the London sunshine and the amazing crowds that lifted it to such heights.
I am incredibly proud and very grateful to the massive team (community) that has given so much to make this project the success it has become, and we want to thank you all for your contribution(s).
I have attached a couple of images of the project for you taken by our photographer Claire Takacs (these images are copyrighted), plus a number of “happy snaps” which is by no means exhaustive.  There are many thousands of images going around the world and deservedly so.
We now working on a quick turnaround before we are off to France to create another poppy installation at the commemoration of the battle of Fromelles.
Our heartfelt thanks to you all for your efforts. You have done an amazing job.
Lynn and Marg
_F5A2864Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with Marg Lynn has a chat to Prince Phillip and Princess Anne Lynn Marg and Phil meet the Queen Lynn Meets Prince Harry Lynn Meets the British Home Secretary Pomp and Ceremony Chelsea Pensioners The Chelsea Team The installation from the hospital _F5A2808  _F5A2965 _F5A4913 _F5A3023-Edit
Lynn and Marg
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The Day Has Arrived …

Hello all … it feels like forever and no time at all since we started this journey.

In fact it’s just over three years now when Marg and I sat down over a lovely glass of Pinot Noir and said to each other “what’s next”.  And just like magic … here we are!

chelsea 2016 artist impression_RT-SmallAnd it is magic don’t you think?  The way the whole thing has grown and grown … a little heart has gone a long long way. And this time next week … we will be showing of our poppies to the world.

So a huge thank you again to all of our contributors …. many and varied, our major sponsors the Victorian Government for your joyful support of our wonderful project.  We simply could not have done it without you.

VIC_LOGO_FAOur official carriers Qantas who have been absolutely amazing.

Qantas Logo

And our many supporters … including the Victorian RSL, Carpet Call, the wonderful team at Grit Communications.

Carpet Call logoPrintgrit_brandAnd of course, there is Phillip and his amazing team at Phillip Johnson Landscapes.  I cannot say enough about the amount of work they have done to get us to Chelsea … its a miracle of grit and determination … brilliant work … especially you Vaughn (I know you will read this).

Phillip Johnson Logo

Keep an eye on facebook for updates.  You can join the group at 5000 Poppies, or like our page at 5000 Poppies at RHS Chelsea and we are also on Instagram … @5000Poppies and #5000poppies.  There will be no shortage of photos I would think, given the team of wonderful volunteers who are coming over to help with the job of install and deinstall.  WOW … such commitment.  We are all very excited and I just know will have an enormous amount of fun … its the culmination of a lot of hard work.

LEST WE FORGET !

And if you are feeling inspired.  You can continue to make poppies … but more on this when we return.

Next stop RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

 

 

 

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Milestones …

Another huge week at PHQ this week.  Tada!!!! Despite the fact that our official completion of the poppy nets was back on 17 March …. we found that quite a few of our earlier repairs were not up to the standard we would have liked … so we went back over the first 40 nets again.  Fussy I know … but we are definitely pleased we did … even though it was a LOT more work than we hoped … we know it will be worth it when Her Majesty walks out beautiful red carpet in just a few weeks time.

So … everything was finished, packed and ready for the truck when it arrived on Friday morning and spirited away our precious cargo to Qantas for final packing into containers ready to ship.  What can I say … I think Qantas is as excited as the rest of us … they even printed up some gorgeous decals to place all over the shipping containers.   No prizes for guessing what’s in those containers.  Next stop London.  Cannot thank our wonderful friends at Qantas enough.

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My garage!!!

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And so … speaking of carpet.

I am always in awe of the power of the sentiment behind this project … At it’s heart it is a simple and poignant (if large) tribute to those who have served and sacrificed for us … and it is truly difficult not to be moved by its intensity and beauty.  And … at it’s soul are the amazing contributors and volunteers and sponsors and those who have cheered from the sidelines.  You have made this project.

Phillip’s wonderful design for Chelsea incorporates over 300 metres of red carpet, creating an impressive walkway through the centre of the installation.  In reality this is a very special invitation for Her Majesty to walk through our “field” of poppies – which we truly hope she will do.  How could she resist???

I have to say that when we put out a quiet (if VERY late) call recently for someone to help us to find a carpet large enough to create our “red carpet” for the Queen we were thrilled with an immediate response from our friends at Carpet Call.  Not only have they agreed to sponsor carpet for the installation and have stated that they are honoured to do so … but they are making it especially for us AND they are delivering to site in London.  Time is tight but they have been amazing!!!!  We cannot thank you and your wonderful team enough!!

Carpet Call logo

And as always … we want to mention our continuing appreciation to the Victorian Government …who have been right behind this amazing journey to Chelsea.  We will do you proud.

VIC_LOGO_FA

 

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Countdown to Chelsea

The days seem to be rushing by in a flurry of Chelsea related activity. The minutiae involved in pulling this all together is astonishing … for the most part it’s Vaughn, Phillip Johnson’s project manager who is juggling all the balls.  So with just on a month to go until we head off and 38 days I believe until the show opens … there is constant movement.Phillip Johnson LogoThis week we had a wonderful turnout for the farewell from the Victorian Parliament for the poppies.  In stunning sunshine … we sat for the cameras on the steps of Parliament House.  It was fun for us … who have worked with the poppies for so long now, to be able to enjoy our day in the sun … and to see the poppies weaving their magic on our politicians and the general public.  There were tears shed … it is a very moving tribute … and the Parliament House backdrop was amazing.  And it was a huge bonus that there was a reception at Parliament for our Vietnam Veterans on that day so we had an opportunity to talk to them about the project … although most of them knew about the project … to see them close up was wonderful.

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Our photographer Clare Takac’s images are spectacular and I can now tick another dream off my poppies list.  Shrine of Remembrance 2013 … TICK, Anzac Day 2015 Fed Square and Princes Bridge …. TICK and TICK, Melbourne International Flower Show … TICK, Parliament House steps … TICK.  RHS Chelsea Flower Show …. COMING SOON.

And then there is the ongoing dream … Western Front …. WATCH THIS SPACE,  Anzac Day match, MCG Melbourne 2018 … STILL A DREAM and Australian War Memorial Remembrance Day 2018 … STILL A DREAM.  Lots of planning and scheming yet to be done post Chelsea.  Of course in between those times we have  loaned our beautiful poppies to a number of organisations to support their own local commemorative efforts, and will continue to do so where we can.  That’s all part of the dream too!!!_F5A0038_F5A9911

_F5A9997So … back to reality … and it looks like our wonderful Qantas sponsors will be begin  shipping part of our precious cargo in the next week.  Untitled-1The wait is nearly over!!!!

 

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