Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics

Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics 

This unique festival aims to spark new ideas on politics and culture with over 80 events during 20-26 March 2017.

3rd annual Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics will be launched today (16 February 2017) at a press conference in Belfast by top comedian Tim McGarry. The seven-day festival The features a packed programme of 86 events in 35 venues across the city and is supported by 30 partner organisations.

The festival returns during 20-26 March with its biggest ever programme to encourage the public to discuss and debate the big issues of our times. In this year of Assembly elections and commemorations, the strictly non-partisan festival offers up an eclectic week of discussions, 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 or two on a political theme.

Ninety per cent of the events are free, and the organisers hope to attract over 5,000 people to this unique festival, particularly those not traditionally involved in political debates.

According to Peter O’Neill, founder and festival director:

“The festival provides a unique opportunity for people to engage with some of the big issues of our time in a fun and dynamic way. 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. So join us in preparing for a new and uncertain tomorrow.”

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 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 esteemed 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, drugs policies, prison reform, students as consumers, 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’!

Other topics for discussion include: How Healthy is Democracy in Northern Ireland?; Open Policy Making: A new era for citizen engagement in NI; Citizen Assemblies: an answer to politicians’ inability to make tough decisions?; Fake News: What you can do about it; and Digital tools for democracy with speakers from Iceland, Estonia and Scotland.

This year’s festival presents ‘Dialogue Day’- a unique series of café based conversation on the theme of ‘surviving or thriving in turbulent times’. These interactive discussions will take place simultaneously in ten cafes across the city where people from all walks of life can gather together to share ideas on how to be the best that we can in these volatile times.

Dozens of discussions and workshops will cover the full gamut of issues that are on everybody’s minds at the moment. Highlights include Could Northern Ireland become an independent member of the EU?; a Banter podcast on the views of young voters; a workshop on Reading in Conflict; a talk From Titanic Town to Narnia; a panel discussion on Brexit and the Border; a lively debate on 7 Ways to Make Northern Ireland Great Again; the student experience inside the Maze/Long Kesh prison; a workshop on How to invent a language; and Why We Need Feminist Economics.

The festival programme also features a full-day conference to support the needs of freelance workers in the creative industries sector; a seminar with Belfast City Council on developing an economy that works for all; a community hackathon on how to combat loneliness; the award winning film Together in Pieces; and talks on the history of lesbianism and LGBTQ visions of peace.

Imagine’s culture programme includes the premiere of Tinderbox Theatre Company’s exciting new play, Famla at The MAC;  a musical performance from fife & drum bands in The Black Box curated by Beyond Skin; an Irish language music and discussion event in the McCracken Cultural Centre and workshops on how to write poetry and political content for the theatre.

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 Imagine! Belfast – the ONLY Festival of Politics and Ideas worth voting for…

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