Pasifika culture on the grand stage

Students from this year’s host school, Greerton Village School. Photo: Bruce Barnard.

It’s a claim that would be backed by anyone who attended last year’s Pasifika in the Bay festival - that upping the ante on this year’s festival would be a hard task.

And yet organisers of the festival are claiming they will be doing just that.

The Bay of Plenty’s much-loved festival, celebrating all things Pasifika, is returning for another year to Greerton Village School on Wednesday, October 24.

The festival is held by Pasifika in the Bay Trust, made up of a small group of Pasifika teachers from around the region who banded four years ago in order to help raise the achievement of Pasifika students.

Mike Douglas is one of many teachers who are part of the trust, and he says this year’s event is promising to be bigger and better than ever.

Twelve primary schools, three kindergartens and four intermediate schools from all over the Bay of Plenty are confirmed so far, ranging from as far as Katikati to Te Puke.

The festival also includes guest performances by Tauranga Boys’ College.

“Our intention is always to raise the Pasifika profile in the Bay of Plenty and to promote the Pasifika culture within our ECE and primary school communities,” says Mike.

“The vibrant atmosphere which is uniquely Pacific is always what makes this event special. Pasifika culture is colourful, loud and joyful.”

Best of all, is the food.

“Coconut buns, panikeke, pork buns, chop suey and raw fish. It's great,” adds Mike, who hopes the event can become as recognised as the national ASB Polyfest, hosted in Auckland each year.

“Last year around 2000 people attended the event, and we hope this year we can have more people enjoy it and support the children performing,” he says.

“For many first-time performers in the festival, it’s a unique opportunity to experience Pasifika culture on such a grand scale.

“It’s great to see the sense of pride in the children’s eyes, being able to represent their culture on the big stage.”

For the first time the event is being hosted on the other side of the city at Greerton Village School, which Mike says is a unique opportunity.

“In previous years the event has been hosted by schools in Papamoa, and we are looking forward to having the festival closer to central Tauranga for the first time.”

Backstage the crew has learned ways to tidy up, making a plan to run things as efficiently as possible.

“There’s no space for ‘Island Time’ at this festival - everything runs to time,” he says.

But it’s not just the trust who make all of the magic happen. They are joined by a wider committee who help run the festival each year.

“Everyone volunteers their time in order to see this event succeed. Each year a different school offers to host the event and, beyond that, the cultural groups that perform are usually run by parent or teacher volunteers and are a culmination of many hours of practice, costume making and organisation.”

This year’s event will start with a powhiri to welcome the performing groups into the school.

School performances will begin from 9.30am, hosted on an outdoor stage including special guest performances and sponsor giveaways.

“The audience can stretch out a picnic blanket,” says Mike, “and enjoy the music or stroll through the market style stalls selling authentic Pacifica food and goods. There will also be community information stalls.”

Pasifika in the Bay will be at Greerton Village School, on Wednesday, October 24, between 9.30am and 2pm

Postponement date will be Friday 26 October.