Belfast's Imagine Festival returns to 'help navigate the big issues of our times'

Journalist and writer Paul Mason will be appearing at this year's Imagine Festival

THE Imagine Festival of Ideas and Politics will return to Belfast later this month, bringing an eclectic week of talks, workshops, theatre, comedy, music, exhibitions, film and tours which promise to 'help navigate the big issues of our times'.

The seven-day festival between March 23 and March 29 features a packed programme of 90 different events – most of which are free.

Highlights of this year's Imagine include the journalist and writer Paul Mason (An Evening with Paul Mason, March 28, Crescent Arts Centre, 8pm), journalist and best-selling author Sam McBride (Burned: The Scandal that Brought Down Stormont, March 27 & 28, Conor Lecture Theatre, Ulster University Belfast, 7.30pm) and business leaders Roseann Kelly, Angela McGowan and Ann McGregor (What do NI Businesses need to Drive Growth in our Economy?, March 26, Riddel Hall, 5.30pm).

Other high-profile speakers include the first Unionist Irish senator, Ian Marshall, leading writers such as Sorcha Pollak (The Language of Migration, March 23, No Alibis, 6.30pm), the Guardian's social affairs correspondent Rob Booth (The Computer Says No, March 25, Conor Lecture Theatre, Ulster University Belfast, 5.30pm) and Open Democracy editor Adam Ramsay (The War on Democracy: And How To Fight Back, March 25, Canada Room, QUB, 7.30pm).

Special events include Conversations With Strangers (March 24, The Black Box, 7pm), a social experiment which invites you to be randomly assigned to a group of strangers for an evening of adventurous discussion.

Current affairs meets comedy with How Can Satire Shape Politics?: An Evening With Count Binface (March 27, Crescent Arts Centre, 8pm). The political candidate formerly known as Lord Buckethead (played by comedian Jon Harvey) will join Dr Roslyn Fuller to discuss his career running against Theresa May and Boris Johnson in two national elections under the promise of ‘strong, not entirely stable leadership'.

Part of the festival's film strand, Fergus Cooper's documentary The Quiet Shuffling of Feet (March 28, QFT, 3pm) examines the life and work of David Bolton, one of Northern Ireland's second responders during the Troubles. In 2001, David left the main health service to establish the Northern Ireland Centre for Trauma and Transformation.

:: See for full programme details

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