In Pictures: Taste of South Pacific comes to Bedfordshire

Hundreds of garlanded South Pacific islanders gathered in Ampthill to celebrate Kiribati Independence Day.

The weekend of traditional dancing and feasting saw people who originate from the island nation of Kiribati, to catch up with old friends and celebrate their culture.

Kiribati Independence Day 2015 celebrated at Ampthill Rugby Club PNL-150728-101628001

Kiribati Independence Day 2015 celebrated at Ampthill Rugby Club PNL-150728-101628001

Kiribati, known as the Gilbert Islands until its independence from the UK on July 12, 1979, lies on the international date line and straddles the equator, west of Australia.

Islanders living in the UK formed the Kiribati Tungaru Association to maintain their social and cultural links, including their annual Get Together.

This year’s event was organised by Helen White, who is half Gilbertese, and her partner Viliami Ma’asi, Ampthill Rugby Club captain, who hails from Tonga.

Helen said: “The guests came from all over the country including Cornwall, Wales and Carlise. We even had visitors from New Zealand who are on holiday.

“The weekend started with the association’s AGM, and once it finished, the party started with a feast.

“We all had seafood, fish and fresh crab, and there was a raditional whole hog roast. My other half was in charge of the traditional ground oven, called an umu, in which he baked taro, bread fruit, yams and a big salmon.

“It was a chance to taste foods not normally found in England.”

After the feast, the dancing began with contemprary hula and traditional dance with the performers wearing grass skirts and garlands.

Helen said: “Women sang behind the dancers and keep the beat by hitting a box. There’s not many Gilbertese in the UK, so it’s lovely for people to get together and feel less homesick, and keep the culture and traditions alive when they are so far from home.”

Kiribati is a nation under threat of disappearing due to rising sea levels caused by climate change. Its government recently purchased land in Fiji in the event it needs to carry out a mass evacuation of its people.