10 ways to feed your imagination

The Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics promises fresh perspectives
The Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics promises fresh perspectives

THE Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics returns on Monday, welcoming back audiences with its eighth annual programme which runs until Sunday March 27.

The festival aims to encourage participation from people not normally involved in political debate and to stimulate a discussion on new ideas on politics, culture and activism.

And as festival director Peter O'Neill emphasises, Imagine! "is not aligned with any political party or group and is strictly non-partisan".

The week is packed with 185 events featuring major speakers and performers, but here is Weekend's top 10 pick to fire your imagination...

1. Michael Ignatieff - On Consolation (Saturday March 26, 8pm, online, free)

In this interview the internationally renowned historian of ideas and Booker Prize-finalist will discuss his new book On Consolation and how great figures in history, literature, music, and art searched for solace while facing tragedies and crises.

2. Michael Longley in conversation with William Crawley (Tuesday March 22, 7pm, Canada Room QUB, free)

This interview with the legendary poet, interspersed with readings, will examine the thorny relationship between poetry and politics and the artistic challenges of addressing contentious political and cultural issues.

3. She/Her/They/Them/We (Friday March 25 and Saturday March 26, 11am-5pm, Arcade Studios, Donegall Street, free)

Second Collective presents for exhibition a series of artworks by women artists in the emerging stages of their practice. The exhibition at Arcade Studios will include work by Martina Hynan, Sarah Louise Lordan, Michaela Nash, Nina Oltarzewska and Eimear Nic Roibeaird. Rachel Macmanus will create a durational public performance at Vault Artist Studios, Belfast.

4. What can we do about online abuse? (Thursday March 24, 7pm, Accidental Theatre, Shaftesbury Square, free)

This online and in-person discussion will examine this growing problem. Hosted by InsideIreland.ie with Mick Fealty, founder of Slugger O'Toole; Amanda Ferguson, freelance journalist; Ciaran O'Connor, Institute for Strategic Dialogue; and Dr Orna Young, executive director of FactCheckNI taking part.

5. The Imagine! film programme (all week, details at imaginebelfast.com/film-2022)

With Queen's Film Theatre and the Strand Arts Centre, Imagine! presents a series of screenings including a focus on film censorship with leading academic Dr Sian Barber (QUB) and featuring a number iconic films originally banned in Belfast.

6. Limin-Alley N:E:W (Saturday March 26 and Sunday March 27, 12pm-7pm, free)

In this exciting community project, six artists will bring installations, artworks and imaginative new ideas to the often neglected back alleyways of Belfast.

Working in partnership with the local residents of Marsden Gardens (north Belfast), Reid Street (east Belfast) and Rodney Drive (west Belfast) a range of events including talks, tours and workshops will welcome visitors to these spaces.

7. Democracy Day on March 25 (details at imaginebelfast.com/friday-25th-march-2022)

With 11 events, this exciting series of events will examine the state of local politics and the ways we can address the most pressing issues of our times.

Featuring keynote speakers such as ex-government minister Richard Needham and leading political theorists Jon Alexander, Professor John Garry, Nicholas Whyte and international and local contributors, this series of free events is not to be missed.

8. How to Investigate: Investigative Journalism Skills for Everybody (Friday March 25, 1pm, The MAC, free)

The Centre for Investigative Journalism brings its renowned training to Belfast for journalists and non-journalists alike to learn some investigative skills and hear different approaches to story-telling.

Features a range of expert journalists, including Chris Moore.

9. Verboten und verbannt! Degenerate Music (Sunday March 27, 8pm, Accidental Theatre, Shaftesbury Square, £5/£3)

Spark Opera and Niall Kinsella presents a programme of music censored and suppressed by the Nazis. Characterised by film chansons, operetta arias and cabaret numbers, this concert features 'degenerate' music the Third Reich expressly banned.

10. The Belfast Battle of Ideas (Saturday March 26, 2pm, Crescent Arts Centre, £10/£7)

There will be three lively panel discussions from the Academy of Ideas covering issues as diverse as freedom of speech, online safety, campus culture and culture wars. With 11 speakers from Britain and Ireland, these provocative debates will stimulate a dynamic discussion on a range of important issues.

The Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics runs from Monday March 21 to Sunday March 27. imaginebelfast.com.