Belfast’s festival of ideas & politics returns during 14-20 March 2016 to broaden horizons and puncture preconceptions.

Belfast’s festival of ideas & politics returns during 14-20 March to broaden horizons and puncture preconceptions with an open invitation to try to make sense of the big issues of our times.

In this year of Assembly Elections and commemorations (not to mention newly raised questions over St. Patrick’s religious denomination!), our strictly non-partisan festival offers up an eclectic week of discussions, talks, workshops, theatre, comedy, exhibitions, quizzes and tours to help us all explore some ‘big ideas’ in our ‘wee country’.

Over 80 (mostly free) events will be taking place in over 25 venues across the city. We hope to welcome everybody from the avowedly non-political to dedicated political observers in a festival-for-all.

The hard-hitting programme includes (in a rare visit to Belfast) the award-winning journalist Owen Jones on The Politics of Hope and leading comic, Bridget Christie. Other high profile speakers include Geoff Mulgan, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Jo Wolff, Avi Shlaim, Cathy Gormley-Heenan and John Higgs.

According to Peter O’Neill, founder and festival director: “The festival provides a unique opportunity for people to have their say on some of the big issues of our time in a fun, dynamic way. We want to encourage participation from people not normally involved in political debate and stimulate a discussion on new ideas and activism. There’s something for everyone in our programme – most of the events are free and spread across the city. So join us in making sense of our politics and culture.”

Topics for discussion include: What is the State of Democracy in NI?; What is Progress?; Towards a People Powered Politics; Editing the Genome; 1916: A Political Reflection 100 Years On; Brexit; the first world war; abortion; and the legacy of the conflict.

The festival also presents the Start Making Sense series of talks, which include Making Sense of Poverty, Making Sense of Youth Justice and Making Sense of the 20th Century, and – not a moment too soon – Making Sense of Elections.

Dozens of Discussions and Workshops cover the full gamut of issues that are on everybody’s minds at the moment, and encourage active debate and participation. Highlights include Are Schools Failing our Kids?; The Suffragettes, 100 years on; Populism and Racism; the Politics of Kindness and One Starry Night (hot chocolate, cosy blankets and star dust provided!).

The festival is also running an Alternative St. Patrick’s Day with an affectionate and oh-so-slightly irreverent touch. There’s Pilgrimage, Pints and a Parade, discussions on Irishness and the Legacy of St. Patrick and humorous investigations into the Irishness of St Patrick (in the unsurprisingly named Sure St. Patrick Wasn’t Even Irish) and comedian Neil Dougan maintaining St. Patrick was a Prod!

The comedy strand continues with US comic, Jennifer Rawlings (I Only Smoke in War Zones) and a night of Electoral Dysfunction from Infinite Jest providing more laughter than you’d get from your average week in Stormont.

Imagine’s theatre programme includes the premiere of Accidental Theatre’s Gordon Osram’s Funeral, The Rising at The MAC, Dramatising Political Ideas with acclaimed playwright Jimmy McAleavey and Tinderbox, Deporting Patrick by Kabosh and Tost, from the award-winning Dylan Quinn Dance Company.

Add to that a couple of big fat quizzes, screenings, tours and a photo exhibition – John Baucher’s It’s Nothing New (on the theme of immigration) and you have Imagine! The ONLY Festival of Politics and Ideas worth voting for…

So come along and join us in making sense of politics & culture!

We’ll be in touch.