The Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics has launched its full programme of events with Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Christina Black and other guests at an event on 2 March in the Grand Central Hotel, sponsored by Linen Quarter Bid.
This year’s festival, taking place from 20-26 March, will explore the theme, ‘Brain Food: A Feast of Ideas for A Better World’ with a programme of film, humour, talks, music, poetry, theatre, exhibitions, tours, discussion and workshops.
Now in its ninth year, the week-long festival has over 130 in-person and online events. Most events are free and will take place online and in venues across the city. Keynote speakers include the world-renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky; American political scientist Francis Fukuyama; British environmentalist Jonathon Porritt; Belfast poet Medbh McGuckian; campaigner George Monbiot; visual artist Colin Davidson: journalist Sally Hayden and satirist Oliver Callan.
Speaking at the launch, Imagine! Festival founder and director, Peter O’Neill said: “We are thrilled to launch our 9th annual festival alongside our partners and funders. This year’s programme is jam-packed with a diverse range of events that will cater to a variety of tastes. Our events will nourish the mind and provide food for thought in this volatile world. We aim to put the fun into politics with lots of humour, performance and discussion, so please join us for this feast of ideas and view the events at imaginebelfast.com.”
There are many notable events in the programme including a politics quiz, a poetry and politics pub tour, and a special ‘Poetry and Politics’ performance, hosted by William Crawley, when local politicians will talk about their favourite poems. Owen McCafferty’s new play, ‘Agreement’ premieres at the Lyric Theatre and examines this landmark moment in the history of Northern Ireland. Other new productions include Five Days – a new play by Joe Nawaz, and the premiere of Reunion by Julie Dutkiewicz and Kabosh Theatre.
Musicians include legendary performer, John Otway; alternative punks, Wood Burning Savages; the acclaimed Australian song writer, Robert Forster; and a talk by Paul Gorman on the rise and fall of the music press. Comedy is well represented with Tiff Stevenson and Fin Taylor alongside poets such as Henry Normal, Luke Wright, and Clare Pollard taking to the stage.
Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Christina Black said: “My congratulations to Peter O’Neill and his team on curating an incredibly inspirational, entertaining and thought-provoking programme of events for the ninth Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics.
“Democracy is so important – it’s vital that we have a chance to reflect on, and debate, the important issues affecting our lives and society. I’m particularly pleased to see Dr Paul Mullan leading a talk on how Belfast City Hall has become a shared space for all; and an event entitled 25 years on: Women and the Good Friday Agreement, celebrating that more women are in positions of power than ever before, and more women-centred policies are being brought to the forefront – whilst considering what still needs to change.
“And, given that we’re working to achieve A Bolder Vision for Belfast and its regeneration, connectivity, and sustainability, I’m really interested to see the Forgotten Spaces online exhibition, and what comes out of the related discussion. I wish everyone involved in this year’s Imagine! Festival the very best and look forward to seeing tickets being snapped up for these fantastic events.”
The unique festival will also examine the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the run up to the local government elections. A special ‘Democracy Day’ strand on 24 March will focus on citizen activism and the role of local change-makers. Other events will examine keynote issues such as how to stop violence against women; the transgender issue; climate change; the prospect of a united Ireland; Scottish Independence; regeneration initiatives and poverty themes. Leading commentators such Professor Linda Bauld will consider how to prepare for the next pandemic and Professor Jon Tonge will discuss why we have so much political instability in Northern Ireland.
Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support the Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics, thanks to The National Lottery players. This terrific festival demonstrates the power of the arts to stimulate open discussion on contemporary subjects that affect all of us. The Festival has curated an impressive programme which brings together a wealth of international, national and local artists and speakers, and I would encourage everyone to go along and get involved!”
With over 130 different performances in the programme, the festival is one of the largest arts festivals on these islands with artists from Algeria, Australia, Uganda, and USA taking part. The exciting film strand is screened by Queen’s Film Theatre (QFT) in partnership with the High Commission of Canada, exploring aspects of Canadian society rarely seen on the big screen.
The extensive online strand includes 10 major events, including conversations with leading thinkers such as Noam Chomsky, George Monbiot, Rob Hopkins and Francis Fukuyuma, as well as an online exhibition featuring images of Belfast’s forgotten spaces, submitted by the public earlier this year.
The Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics 2023 programme is available to view online via imaginebelfast.com. Most of the events are free.
Imagine! Belfast Festival 2023 is generously supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland; Belfast City Council; Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Reconciliation Fund; VSB Foundation; Queen’s University Belfast; The Open University Northern Ireland; Ulster University; Linen Quarter BID; Future Screens NI and Community Relations Council.
The festival is an independent, non-profit, registered charity (NIC 101004) with minimal administrative costs and not aligned with any political party or group and is strictly non-partisan. The aims of the festival are to encourage participation from people not normally involved in political debate and to stimulate a discussion on new ideas on politics, culture and activism.