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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It’s all quiet on the Western Front …

It feels kinda weird not to be opening mountains of mail each week at PHQ these days (sometimes in excess of 5000 poppies at a sitting), now that our poppy collection is all but  complete.  And it is so quiet with everyone totally focused on the assembly stage of our AWM installation … 62,000 stems to be assembled.  And while we are well and truly oversubscribed on poppies, we are also working to ensure that everyone is represented at the AWM installation to commemorate the Centenary of the end of the Great War on Remembrance Day in November as best we can.

For the remaining poppies (and there are many) I have mentioned that we are also creating a number of additional large scale installations for Remembrance Day … the wheels are moving slowly but we will give you more news on these when we can … Suffice to say they are exciting and we are looking forward to being able to unveil our plans to you in due course.

Our motto is and always has been “no poppy left behind” so we are working hard to incorporate every single poppy into one or another of our installations.  It’s a big big task, but we think we are up to it.

So while we may be a little quiet on social media and the blog … be assured that the teams at PHQ (East Malvern RSL Vic), Mornington, Gippsland and Canberra are working away to complete our stunning installations of love, honour and respect for those who have served and sacrificed, their families and their communities.

And, just as exciting, there are many who are working on local installations for their own towns all across Australia, not to mention the many other places around the globe will be covered in a sea poppies come November.

LEST WE FORGET!

 

 

 

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Counting Down to Remembrance Day 2018 …

Well … Anzac Day came and went for us in the blink of an eye … time is moving at a pace and we are now into the final five months of creating this very special tribute for the Australian War Memorial in honour of those 62,000 brave Australian souls who fought and died in WWI.

Right back at the start of 5000 Poppies it was our wish to create something special for each tribute we have done over the last five years … moulding our vision to the site we have available. And I think we have achieved that aim.   And I must say … although you won’t have an opportunity to see it until it’s completed for our launch on 5 October … the Australian War Memorial installation will be the very best yet.  Imagine if you can … immersing yourself in the middle of a field of 62,000 beautiful poppies … knowing that every single one is filled to the brim with love, honour and respect.  It gives me goosebumps every time I think about it.

So as the countdown continues … you really need to be thinking about booking your Canberra visit to coincide with the installation which will run from 5 October through to 11 November.  It will be beautiful.

It’s hard to fathom the amount of work involved in pulling it all together … but I recently published some background on facebook … which astounded even me … and I’d like to share it here on our blog … for posterity.

Marg and I started making poppies in March 2013 as a personal project to honour our fathers’ war service in WWII.
We went public June 2013 with the 5000 Poppies Project
We officially launched in Fed Square Melbourne on Remembrance Day 2013 with exactly 5000 poppies (I think we underestimated the interest it would generate).
By December 2013 we had approx 25,000 poppies
By December 2014 we had approx 125,000 poppies
By Anzac Day 2015 we had approx 257,000 poppies for our multifaceted Fed Square installation marking the Centenary of Anzac
In May 2016 more than 300,000 poppies went to Chelsea Flower and Garden Show to visit the Queen and caught up with Dr Brendan Nelson who asked us to create an installation at the AWM for the Centenary of Armistice
We had also agreed to make 50,000 poppies for the Vic RSL for the Poppy Appeal 2018 as a “thank you” for their financial assistance in getting our project across to Europe in 2016
By February 2018 we had completed the 50,000 and were well on the way to completing our collection for AWM installation.
Today we have collected in total well over half a million poppies and spawned thousands of poppy projects all over the world
But thats not the half of it
Each poppy takes an average of 2 hours to make, sort and process, either onto nets or stems or put pins on for lapels
Thats one million hours right there
That doesn’t include the COUNTLESS hours of icord making, stem stuffing and gooping, checking, rechecking, repairing, reworking, installing, deinstalling, transporting and the myriad of other tasks that go into a project of this magnitude
All just stats, but impressive nonetheless.

And the reason I find all this most impressive … ALL of this work has been done by thousands of volunteers all over the world … our volunteers pay for their own materials and postage … and have shared yarn with their crafty brothers and sisters when red yarn was in short supply for a while across the nation, and they have formed satellite groups … new communities and new friendships … all out of working towards a common purpose … I just LOVE that.

But there is the other, underlying and ultimately more important thing about this project …. and that is that it shows the DEPTH and BREADTH of gratitude, and of love, honour and respect that our nation holds for our veterans past, present and future. LEST WE FORGET indeed!

So we are now winding down our poppy collection and are concentrating on the assembly of poppies for the AWM installation … and all of the other activities related to the staging of a unique event of this nature, as well as a number of other major installations happening around the country.

For the moment though, the 62,000 poppies on stems is our major focus.  It is a BIG commitment and it takes a huge village to create something of this magnitude.  And there are many people to thank (which will take forever).  So today I start with those teams who have taken up the gauntlet and re-established themselves to “get the job done” for this massive installation.

Not in any particular order … our Canberra team … formed when we originally announced our involvement with the AWM … so a fairly new “team” although a number of team members have been involved with the project from right back in 2013 when we started.  I am sure they had no idea of the magnitude of the task when they took it on but have been amazing in their ability to step up each time the task grew to a whole new level.  So congratulations to Ledy Rowe and her magnificent team of poppy makers for their contribution.  And a huge vote of thanks to Poppy’s Cafe at the War Memorial for allowing us the use of their space several times a month for our poppy making escapades.

The Mornington Peninsula group have been with us from the start back in 2013 in various guises, and have been working out of the Mornington Library for some time now.  Led by Carol Copp and assisted by Judi McKinna, the MP group have been amazing contributors, both of poppies and of completed stems for all of our installations over the last five years and have been involved in many of our larger installs.  It’s been humbling to have these ladies and gents working with us and “showing up” when we needed help.

The Mooroolbark/Kilsyth team led by Anne Bryan have been meeting weekly for a long time at Allan’s Bakery and Cafe in Kilsyth.  For a small team, their output has been amazing and they have engaged the local community beautifully. So a huge thank you to the team at Allan’s Bakery for their contribution and to the staff at Allan’s Bakery for their commitment.

Our Gippsland team led by Nadine Greenaway for the last couple of years, and Pauline Jephcott prior to that.  They have again, been with us almost from the start, and a large part of our i-cording for the stemmed poppies has come through Nadine, not to mention the thousands and thousands of poppies they have made, and the stems they have stuffed and neatened. It’s truly mind boggling.

Again, as I am typing this, my mind wanders back to the sheer volume of work that these teams do on our behalf week in … week out.  It is phenomenal.

There are also our Morris and Sons and Granny Squares groups run by Susan McDougall who have made poppies, created kilometres of icord and, and stuffed an neatened countless stems ready for our poppies to be attached … again.  Susan managed our stem making teams across Victoria for our planting at the Chelsea Flower Show (26,000 stems in three months) and has gone on to run workshops at both Morris and Sons CBD and Granny Square Richmond and a number of other locations almost from the start … such an incredible labour of love.

Keep an eye on this space as the countdown continues …

With love and much much much gratitude.

 

 

 

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ANZAC DAY 2018

Anzac Day 2018 is rapidly approaching … I can’t quite believe that it will be three years since our fantastic tribute was unveiled in Melbourne’s iconic Federation Square …  and then onto Princes Bridge for the duration of the Anzac Day march.  Such a thrill to see our beautiful tribute of love, honour and respect come to life for this important day on the Australian commemorative calendar.

There has been a lot of water … and an awful lot of hard work … under the bridge since then.

I am, as always astounded by the way our lovely little community project just took off … around Australia and then around the world … and still to this day continues to inspire hundreds if not thousands of small and large handcrafted poppy tributes globally.

I know I say it constantly but for me, this project will always be about my father, and for Margy, about her father …. but we continue to note in the letters and dedications that come with your poppies, that this is a very personal tribute for every single person who has made a poppy and sent it to us …

For Anzac Day 2018 we have a couple of small installations happening … one in Sydney at the Westfield Miranda Shopping Centre.  There you will see the ANZAC letters that were originally crafted for the Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience, the AWM’s outstanding travelling Centenary tribute which toured Australia from 2015 to 2017, plus a selection of our original poppy “strings” which were made for our launch display back in 2013, and have been used in a number of tributes in the years since then.  These are coupled with a fabulous display of WWI memorabilia from the local RSL.  A small but poignant installation.  I hope if you are Sydney based, that you will get an opportunity to go along and view the exhibition.  On display now until 26 April.

There will also be a small installation at the Melbourne Museum in support of the Museum’s WWI Love and Sorrow exhibition.  This will be installed tomorrow and be in situ until 26 April.  This is an outstanding and evocative exhibition and one well worth seeing ….. note to self – take tissues.

We now have our sights firmly set on Remembrance Day 2018 for a series of final poppy tribute installations in various locations around Australia.  Watch this space.

And just for nostalgia’s sake, here is a jump back in time for you to Anzac Day 2015 …

Quite simply, breathtaking.

And last, but certainly not least, a reminder to support the  RSL’s 2018 Anzac Appeal helping to raise funds in support of our Veterans and their families. Even if you have chosen to wear your beautiful handmade poppy this year, and we sincerely understanding that … we encourage everyone to buy a badge, and wear it with pride.

Image result for anzac appeal images

 

 

 

 

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