The Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics returns with a feast of events

The Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics returns with a feast of events

The Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics takes place from 20-26 March 2023 and 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. 

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, where 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.


The unique festival will also examine the 25thanniversary 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.

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 Most of the events are free, with other tickets priced at £5.

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