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.
Inside the Cheer Up Society Hut in Adelaide 1919 (Image: State Library SA)
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 July 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.
The South African War Memorial Outside Government House
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 Memory Day at the Cheer Up Hut in Adelaide 1921 (Image: State Library SA)
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 colouful 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.
Bring the whole family with chairs and a rug to enjoy this free sound and light show in Adelaide. It will play twice each night, at 6pm and 8pm. Food trucks will ensure that nobody is hungry, but bring warm clothes and umbrellas if the weather looks threatening. - the show goes on regardless!
The free event will transfigure the building at Torrens Parade Ground like Blinc did for the Festival Theatre. What a brilliant way to honour the many women volunteers who worked tirelessly to support their men in times of war.
Violets Are a Symbol of Perpetual Remembrance of Our War Dead (Image: Illuminart Adelaide)
We attended on the evening of Thursday the 2nd of July 2015. It was chilly, so we rugged up well. The night sky was clear with a rising moon. It was a wonderful event, enjoyed by all. Thank you. Adelaide.