Imagine: The Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics
This unique festival starts today with over 80 events until 26 March.
Belfast will be alive with debate until 26 March as the Imagine Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics launches its biggest ever programme to encourage people to discuss and debate the big issues of our times. The strictly non-partisan festival offers up an eclectic week of talks, workshops, theatre, comedy, music, exhibitions, film and tours to prepare us for a new tomorrow. There’s even a poetry competition for people to pen a verse on a political theme.
The seven-day festival features a packed programme of over 300 speakers and performers in 35 venues across the city and is supported by 30 partner organisations. Ninety per cent of the events are free, and the organisers hope to attract over 5,000 people to this diverse festival, particularly those not traditionally involved in the arts or political debates.
According to Peter O’Neill, founder and festival director:
“The festival is a unique platform for people to engage in a fun and dynamic way with the big issues confronting us all. Over 300 speakers and performers will stimulate debate and discussion of new ideas relating to politics, culture and activism. There’s something for everyone in our programme – 90% of the events are free and accessible across the city. We are delighted by the response we have already received with many events already oversubscribed or close to capacity – so get booking!”
The exciting programme includes biting satire from David McSavage, the star of RTE’s The Savage Eye; book readings from award-winning journalist Catherine Mayer, former prisoner and author Erwin James and Whitbread award winner Diane Souhami; and a keynote talk from Bill Adair, the creator of the Pulitzer Prize winning US fact checking platform PolitiFact.
Other high profile speakers include Professor Noel Sharkey (Chief Judge on Robot Wars) on the future of robotic technology in medicine; Professor Geoffrey Crossick on the value of arts and culture; Professor Richard Ashcroft on the future of medicine; and a panel of historians examining the impact of the Reformation and its 500th anniversary.
The festival also has a special Democracy Day programme of 16 events looking at aspects of civic activism (24 March in the Mac) and talks on the implications of Brexit, Peace Walls, Fake News, Young Voters, Medical Ethics, and a New Old Age to name but a few of the touchstone topics. In addition, there are lots of film, music, theatre and other performances as well as some eclectic events such as ‘Why is Elvis in your toast’!
Imagine’s culture programme includes the premiere of Tinderbox Theatre Company’s exciting new play, Famla at The MAC; a performance from over 50 musicians including fife & drum bands in the Black Box; an Irish language music and discussion event in the McCracken Cultural Centre; workshops on civic activism and a Hackathon exploring loneliness.
Add to that four walking tours exploring different parts of the city; two exhibitions and a poetry competition (on the theme of politics) and you have one of the most exciting festivals in Ireland which has already captured the imagination of Belfast.