the 2016 festival

The second Imagine Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics proved to be a very successful offering encompassing 82 events in 28 venues during 14-20 March 2016.

Approximately 4,500 audience members attended the wide ranging programme which attracted very positive media and audience feedback. Our audience survey found that 92% of respondents felt the festival satisfied their expectations. It was particularly pleasing to find that 48% of the sample had never been to a festival venue before which suggests that we were able to reach new audiences and introduce them to new venues and partners.

We were delighted with the quality of the events in our programme, as confirmed by audience feedback and media reviews. We were also pleased to work with 35 partners during this festival, particularly our funders which included Building Change Trust, Community Relations Council, Ulster University, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, The Open University, Queen’s University Belfast and Stratagem.

At a glance…

  • Total audience: 4469 (87% increase from 2015)
  • Number of events: 82 (91% increase from 2015)
  • Number of performers/speakers: 313 (211 in 2015)
  • Number of free events: 68 – 82% of total events (24 in 2015)
  • Number of venues: 28 (14 used last year)
  • Number of festival partners: 35 (20 last year)
  • Media coverage: 61 items (37 last year)

The hard-hitting programme included the award-winning journalist Owen Jones on The Politics of Hope and leading comedian Bridget Christie. Other high profile speakers included Geoff Mulgan, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Jo Wolff, Avi Shlaim, Cathy Gormley-Heenan and John Higgs.

Topics for discussion also included: 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.

In addition, the festival presented the Start Making Sense series of talks, which included Making Sense of Poverty, Making Sense of Youth Justice, Making Sense of the 20th Century and Making Sense of Elections.

Dozens of discussions and workshops covered a wide range of issues and encouraged active debate and participation. Highlights included Are Schools Failing our Kids?; The Suffragettes, 100 years on; Populism and Racism; the Politics of Kindness and One Starry Night.

The festival also organised an Alternative St Patrick’s Day with affectionate and irreverent 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 continued with US comic Jennifer Rawlings (I Only Smoke in War Zones) and a night of Electoral Dysfunction from Infinite Jest providing more laughter. Imagine’s theatre programme included 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.

We also had a couple of quizzes, film screenings, tours and a photo exhibition with John Baucher on the theme of immigration. Finally we invited the public to send us their images on the future of Belfast. We showcased 12 of these on our website and in an exhibition hosted by Framewerk Gallery in East Belfast during 16-21 May.

More from our 2016 festival:

The Public Gallery 2016

We’ll be in touch.