“Violet Verses is a spectacular son et lumière show to commemorate a unique South Australian tradition. Produced by Illuminart and held at the historic Torrens Parade Ground in Adelaide for three days in July, Violet Verses celebrates the centenary of Violet Day. Shocked by the massive casualties that the first ANZACs suffered in the Dardanelles landings in 1915 , South Australian women turned their minds to finding ways to honour and help those at the battle front.

The first Violet Day was the brainchild of Alexandrine Seager, Secretary and Organiser of the Cheer-Up Society – an organisation of women volunteers who sought to provide comfort, welfare, and entertainment for soldiers and sailors. The society ran a Cheer Up Hut next to the Adelaide railway station during World War 1, where service men were always welcome. They received free meals, could play billiards and join in sing-alongs, and meet new friends. The Cheer-Up Society also operated in some country areas including Murray Bridge and Burra. For the first Violet Day on Friday 2 1915, “scores of young ladies dressed in white were active in the city streets from an early hour, selling tiny bouquets of violets, attached to each of which was a purple ribbon bearing the words ‘in memory’ and a representation of a cross”. The violets were a symbol of perpetual remembrance for our war dead, and also raised funds to help the wounded, and provide income for the Cheer-Up Society.

From a newspaper report: At midday, at the Soldiers’ Memorial Statue (South African War memorial outside Government House) on North Terrace, a demonstration arranged by the Cheer Up Society was held. Speeches were delivered by the Governor, the Premier, and the State Military Commandant (Colonel Sandford), and Mr. G. MacEwen, Vice President of the Cheer Up Society. He explained that it was hoped to make Violet Day an annual fixture, and to establish a club for the wounded who returned to South Australia.

Violet Day continued to be held in  South Australia until 1970. Sadly it had largely been eclipsed by the more widely celebrated Poppy Day by then, and the tradition had faded over the years. All remaining funds were paid to the AIF Cemetery Trust, and the organising committee disbanded.

The Violet Verses son et lumière Spectacular is a colourful multimedia re-telling of the history of Violet Day. Presented by History SA and successful projection light specialists Illuminart, this free event will bring to life the wartime good works of the Cheer Up Society volunteers during both world wars.”

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The night was cold but the show was spectacular!


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