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West Auckland Peace Poppy Project is hugely successful

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poppiesJuly 28 this year marks the centenary of the start of World War I. Nine months and three days later, on April 25, 1915, the ANZAC tradition was born on the beaches and in the hills of Gallipoli.

The echoes of July 28, 1914 rumbled down through the rest of the 20th century with wars and revolutions that traced their origins to the Great War. Throughout that century, men and women from New Zealand joined the fight for freedom from tyrannies of one kind and another, but above all, the heroes we commemorate on April 25 did not fight that we might have more war, but that we might have peace.

It is in that spirit that West Auckland artist, Cristina Beth MFA Hons (Master of Fine Arts), last year launched her Peace Poppy Project, in the hope it might inspire others to celebrate the peace our heroes fought for. It seems she touched a chord: 1,000 Peace Poppies were made in 2013, and such has been the demand that the number for 2014 is 8,000 and rising. With the overwhelming support she has received, including from RSAs, Cristina believes the Peace Poppy Project could go national next year and possibly international.

The daughter of an Army officer, Cristina conceived the idea of a public art installation made up of 1,000 oversize hand-made poppies “planted” in the Titirangi roundabout. The idea was to inspire people to remember the veterans who secured our peace, with individual commitments to honour the peace and spread goodwill in the community.

It was to work on a viral basis. People were invited to pluck the poppies in exchange either for doing a good deed or a gold coin donation. The donations would go to the RSAs and those doing good deeds were asked to report them back to Cristina so that she could record them in a book to be published and put on public display. Either way, the people who took poppies were encouraged to honour the value of our peace and spread the thinking “You tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends”.

Supported by Lopdell House Gallery, Auckland Council, Titirangi RSA, Spotlight and Geoff’s Emporium, sewing groups made the poppies using red felt petals, with a large black button at the centre and mounted on a green “stalk” acquired from garden centres. These were “planted” in the Titirangi roundabout in the pre-dawn darkness of April 25, creating an awesome blaze of colour for the early morning crowds travelling to Anzac ceremonies.

It was a huge success. This year schools from all over West Auckland, scout groups, sewing groups, private individuals and RSAs have been lining up to make the poppies and use them in school study projects, to spread goodwill among neighbours friends and, better yet, strangers raise money for the RSAs, to pay homage to the veterans of many wars and to honour the peace they won for us.

Once again the public will be invited to take a poppy. Cristina says that last year most people preferred to make a donation and she expects that will also be the case this year. The money will again go to the RSA. Nevertheless she will continue with the idea of creating a book of the project, and list the names of the people who made poppies.

The demand has been so great that Cristina, again working with Lopdell Gallery, has created kitsets made up of felt to cut into poppies, buttons and stalks with which independent groups can make their own poppies. They then return the finished products, literally by the box-load, to Cristina for this year’s art installations at three different West Auckland locations, the Titirangi roundabout (again), the new pebble garden at the Waikumete Cenotaph and at Todd Triangle in New Lynn.

Auckland Council donated $5,000 to cover the cost of 5,000 poppies, but the demand has been so great that the number has swelled by a further 3,000 and while this is likely to be recovered from donations, any gifts to help defray the costs will be more than welcome.

Get Involved! There is still time for anybody wanting to take part to obtain a kitset from Cristina, who can be contacted via cristina.b@xtra.co.nz or on facebook at CristinabethArt. There is also a website reachable here