Launch Day

I cannot believe how quickly that time went.

Today was the launch of our amazing tribute to the Fallen of WWI on the lawns of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.  Nearly six years in the making, and just as Margy and I envisioned it at the AWM all that time ago.  And Phil’s spectacular embodiment of that vision is genius!

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It feels like forever and no time at all.

62,000 beautiful handcrafted poppies … representing 62,000 lives lost in WWI.

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It is sobering.

And it is also sobering to walk through our field, and really feel the meaning behind every one of those blooms.

The depth of feeling that went into the making … handmade by our magnificent tribe from all over the world … with love, honour and respect.

And the stories that came with the blooms … some tragic, some heroic, some heartwarming, but all very, very real.

What an amazing privilege.

Some of our beautiful blooms are slightly worn by the patina of their travels through the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and Fromelles, France for the Centenary of the Battle of Fromelles in 2016.  They will fade, as poppies in the field do.  But that will be part of the story too.

I am sure it will be on the news tonight everywhere, but I am equally sure that it will be breaking the internet as well.  So stunning are the images coming out of Canberra today.

There are so many to thank … where do you start.

Marg at AWM

My heart is full.

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At times it felt like we would never make it …

And then all of a sudden we are here.

Day one of planting has been amazing and quite surreal.

When you have worked towards something for such a long time, and then it is upon you … you feel strange … really weird … it’s like an out of body experience.

The reality hasn’t hit yet … but yesterday nearly 16,000 of 62,000 poppies were put into the ground, … calculations were checked and rechecked and found to be perfect … that’s down to our Phillip (Phillip Johnson Landscapes) and Vaughn.

Our volunteers are absolutely committed to the cause, and were incredibly grateful to be part of this wondrous event … I wonder if they still feel the same way this morning … the day after day one.  There will be many sore, stiff and aching bodies … the ground is like granite in some places.

Day 2 is about to begin … limber up those joints at exercises this morning people … another three hour shift ahead of you.  Take it easy … it’s not a race … we have plenty of time to get it done and plenty of volunteers itching to be here with us.

P.S.  Sunscreen mandatory … it’s hot out there even when it’s not … that sun is ferocious and …

P.P.S.  highly recommending a visit to our resident Masseur and Exercise Physiologist  Frank who has also volunteered his time to be with us … and who does wonderful work with sore hands, sore feet, sore backs, sore legs ….

P.P.P.S.  And not forgetting the fantastic breakfast rolls and coffee from our resident barista Jon Ling.  Most of us would not have survived the day without him.

 

 

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All Roads Lead to Rome ….

Or in our case … all roads lead to the Australian War Memorial.

If you have heard this story before and had enough, look away now.

Marg and I, almost from day 1, were determined that our little memorial project would end up at the War Memorial.  It was right.  It was fitting. It was the perfect ending.

The journey has been dotted with the most spectacular opportunities to display our beautiful handcrafted poppies.

But today, as we labelled our last box … I took a little time to reflect on the last five plus years … and the journey we have been on.

From the outset, as you know, and as I say so often, this project, for me has been about my Dad, and for each of you about your own personal journey of remembrance.

And, I have been asked too many times to count “why do you think this project has been so successful”, and I always respond by saying that it has many layers, and it truly does … but in the end it boils down to community,  But now that I am sitting here, having put away the tools of making for just a little while and contemplating packing for the journey to Canberra tomorrow … I wonder if it’s simpler than that.

I wonder, truly, if its just that we want to connect somehow with those brave souls who gave their all in the hope of a better world.

Our brave souls … our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts, cousins, and more distant relatives … friends.

It is right and fitting that we feel a deep, deep gratitude for their bravery, their sacrifice, their willingness to give their all.

And it is right and fitting, that we use the skills we have to shout it to the world in a glorious, riot of colour that symbolises our hope that they are forever honoured in our hearts and our thoughts.

As we should.

LEST WE FORGET

Phillip Johnson’s team is already in Canberra and has commenced the significant groundworks needed to make this field of poppies come alive.  It’s a big job.

Planting starts on Saturday morning.

We launch on 5 October.

You are welcome to come and see for yourself, the results of the work of many thousands of contributors from all around the world … in memory of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in WWI.

It will be spectacular.

Three days, 14 hours, 57 minutes and 50 seconds ….

 

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13 Days, 01 Hour, 40 Minutes, 34 Secondsk

And counting.

Not long now.

This time next week, the truck will be loaded with our precious poppies and ready to go. The advance team will be in Canberra from 24 September for groundworks and then on Saturday 29 September at 9.00 a.m. the planting will begin.

It’s exciting and hellishly scary all at once.

But we are more than ready, and have been working towards this point for five and a half years. It will be wonderful to see the field, as I envisioned it so long ago … albeit a little bigger … ok a lot bigger, but a beautiful field, where our visitors can sit and reflect on the contribution that those 62,000 brave souls made alongside their colleagues and those that came after, the impact on their families and communities where a significant proportion of a generation of our young men were lost, as they struggled to rebuild in the aftermath, and the impact on our Nation as a whole.

It must be Sunday morning as I write this … my personal time for reflection.

So … back to the present.

Again, I say, what we are doing is magnificent … thousands of loving hands … thousands of stories, thousands and thousands of remembrances.

During the week, Kate and I went up to Canberra for the installation a couple of “teaser” tributes.  We didn’t (and, of course, couldn’t) do it alone and were happy to work  alongside our very own Canberra star Ledy Rowe and a team from the AWM.  It was fun and exhausting at the same time, and a very good test for the hamstrings.

At Floriade, we installed “Honour Their Spirit” alongside a smattering of some 2000 stems opposite the stage area  … beautiful, poignant and a small taste of things to come.  By now many of you will have seen this installation as you wander the grounds of Floriade.

At the airport, there are two beautiful installations – the first in the International Arrivals area featuring our beautiful poppies was created by Hazel Davies of CIT Floristry and is reminiscent of the incredibly poignant Honour wall at the AWM.

The second is in the domestic arrivals hall and features 27 beautiful wreaths hanging in those massive windows in honour of the fallen. The wreaths are sized from 20cm to nearly one metre across.  Simply beautiful.

These beautiful installations are a snippet of things to come in Canberra over the next couple of months.  To say we are excited as our collective work comes to life is a little bit of an understatement.

13 days, 52 minutes and 40 seconds.

As our Phillip would say … Game On!

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42 Days, 16 minutes, 37 seconds and counting …

As I begin to write this … my countdown app on my phone tells me it’s 42 days, 16 minutes and 37 seconds to planting at the AWM.

It’s such a long way from when we met with Dr. Brendan Nelson at our tribute at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show back in June 2016 and such a long way from our humble beginnings in 2013 to now.  And now we are on the verge, and I am beyond excited.

When we started 5000 Poppies back in June 2013 … Marg and I were musing over a glass or two of Pinot (as you do) about the things we might do with the 5000 Poppies Project, but one of the things we most wanted was for our little project to find it’s way, somehow, in some way, to the Australian War Memorial at the end.

So much has happened between then and now. So many beautiful tribute installations, so many wonderful people to meet, and so many unbelievably generous and creative contributors … it’s hard to fathom, when you are in the thick of doing!!!!!

So now … 42 days, 10 minutes and 59 seconds to planting … and I am musing over the people I’ve met along the way, the  generous souls who spend their days both with me at PHQ and in many other places to make this huge undertaking a reality … who come to poppy workshops and workdays, and who have sent in or dropped off their poppies to the many locations that have offered to act as collection points over the journey … and those who have been our guardian angels when we needed something … and my thoughts go to the many, many thousands of poppies that have arrived in our post office box and on my doorstep over the last five years … imbued with love and honour and respect for those who have served … living and dead.  And I am reminded of the beautiful, sad woman who made poppies for Fed Square in honour of her son, an Afghanistan veteran, who had taken his own life just weeks before.  Her heart was so broken and we cried together when we met at Fed Square.  And then there was the beautiful elderly, stooped man in Fromelles who stood there with his wife sobbing with one of our beautiful poppies in his hand, because he could not understand how or why so many thousands of people would take the time create such a beautiful tribute to the fallen and he was remembering his comrades who had fallen in the Algerian War.

I don’t remember names, there are so many … but those and many other things about this project have touched my core … and remind me that what we are doing and what we have done … is SO important on so many levels.

I’ve always thought of the 5000 Poppies team as a tribe … and I think that’s probably the right description … we are definitely bonded together in this magnificent endeavour …

See you in Canberra

41 days, 23 hours, 51 minutes, 40 seconds.

Tick, tick, tick

 

 

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Eight weeks and counting down …

Good morning all … we are now on our final few thousand stems for our AWM install for November … These poppies are for backups and replacements … and just in case.  Its been a mammoth job and I can’t thank the teams who have made the icord, stuffed and neatened the stems, gooped the stems and then added the poppies.  It is quite a process as you can imagine and our teams both in Victoria and Canberra have been absolutely amazing … job well (almost) done.

It’s only 8 weeks now til planting … hard to believe … its gone so fast and the next 8 weeks will fly.

If you plan to be in Canberra and want to help us plant, you need to have your application in for planting by NOW.  I will be working on the rosters over the next week or so and getting back to all those who have volunteered to see where we are at. Application are on the blog (click here)

Exciting stuff.

There are all sorts of other bits and pieces that we are working on … small and large for November … and I expect with all the activity on our facebook group from makers everywhere, that there will be a sea of knitted and crocheted poppies made with loving hands all over Australia and in many places throughout the world.  If you are still itching to continue to make poppies as I see that many of you are and I apologise for getting you hooked in the first place … really I do … you can meet up with any number of local poppy tributes through the facebook group.

Our main tributes will be centered in our Nation’s Capital, but there will be others which will be just as important and impacting as well … more information coming sooooooooon!!!!

I have to say this has been kind of surreal for me … that so MANY of you have joined us in our journey … it’s been a true labour of love, and a fitting and heartfelt tribute to those who have served or are still serving.

LEST WE FORGET

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The Countdown Continues …

Yesterday at Poppy Headquarters at the East Malvern RSL, a couple of significant milestones were met with a quiet acknowledgement of “job well done”.  Not surprisingly, I am feeling like it was a bit of an understatement (chuckling to myself here) … I expect that it’s because we still have a mountain of work ahead of us between now and the end of September.

So, I thought I would just quietly share where we are at with you.

We have completed attaching poppies to 62,000 stems for the installation at the Australian War Memorial (Canberra) for our Centenary of Armistice Day commemoration. Given that the installation will be in situ for five weeks, we have decided to create an additional 20,000 stems to cover repairs and replacements. (No we don’t need any more poppies at this time).

26,500 stems planted at Fromelles, France July 2018

We have completed creating, checking, repairing and packing our “poppy strings” for the stunning backdrop for the Centenary of Armistice Concert in Launceston in November.

Poppies on Strings : Federation Square Melbourne Anzac Day 2015

And, we completed another very large and very poignant installation (yet to be unveiled) for Victoria (watch this space for details).

Back to the start : Remembrance Day 2013 Federation Square Melbourne

We have also completed our planning for another three installations that we will be creating (also yet to be unveiled), and working on initial planning for more.  Our aim is to use every single poppy that we have collected over the last 5 years in these installations (more than half a million poppies) … and while it is daunting … we are commited to the task.  It is going to be BEAUTIFUL.

So, excitement is building as we count down the weeks (13) until we launch our installation on 5 October at the Australian War Memorial, which kicks off our stunning community campaign of respect and remembrance, and it is going to be a very busy few months at Poppy Headquarters as we pull everything together.

Again, as I reflect on the nature of the task we have undertaken within and for the community at large, I am reminded that it is an incredible privilege to be doing this work in honour of our servicemen and women, their families and their communities … past, present and future.

LEST WE FORGET

 

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