Previewing Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics (25-31 March)

While local government candidates are frantically printing out and delivering leaflets around the doors before the Electoral Commission rules about candidate spending kick in, the 65 partners behind the Imagine! Festival of Ideas and Politics have been pulling together their largest ever programme of events that will run over the week 25-31 March. [Ed – can’t think of anything else happening that week!]

They’ve crammed 380 speakers at 156 events in 50 venues into the 7 days. Many of the events are free to attend (though registration is often required) and some are paid tickets.

Some highlights from the thicker than ever programme.

Beyond Clicktivism explores how Amnesty International use technology and open source investigation methodologies and crowdsourced digital volunteers to expose human rights buses from Darfur to Syria to Twitter. Milena Marin leads Amnesty’s Digital Decoders programme and will also talk about the investigation into executions of women and children by Cameroon soldiers. Monday 25 March at 12.30pm in Moot Court, QUB School of Law. FREE

Richard English, professor of politics at QUB and pro-vice-chancellor for internationalisation and engagement is asking Does political violence ever work? He’s the author of Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA, Irish Freedom: The History of Nationalism in Ireland as well as Does Terrorism Work? A History. Monday 25 March at 12.30pm in the Green Room, The Black Box. £5/£3.

One-time weekly contributor to BBC Talkback and novelist Lionel Shriver is in conversation with William Crawley in the UU’s Conor Lecture Theatre on Monday 25 March at 7.30pm. £10/£8

Robin Ince is mashing up the cultures of art and science in his show Chaos of Delight. Crescent Arts Centre on Monday 23 March at 8pm. £12/£10.

John Baucher and Cliff McKibben’s Home Turf exhibition of photographic prints taken at over 20 bonfire sites in the past five years will be on display between 26 March and 7 April in the Vault Artist Studios in Tower Street, off the Newtownards Road. A workshop (7pm) will follow the launch event (6pm) on Monday 25 March with Philip Orr giving a history of bonfires in Belfast and globally, with reflections by Gareth Mulvenna and Beano Niblick. FREE

The OU’s Dr Karen Hagan will apply ideas from psychology to ask What can Trump teach us about bullying and manipulation? in Crumlin Road Gaol on Tuesday 26 March at 6pm.

Alex Gibney’s documentary No Stone Unturned about the 1994 Loughinisland pub massacre will be shown in the Queen’s Film Theatre on Tuesday 26 March at 6pm and will be followed by the thoughts of a local journalist and Inside Ireland’s editor Ciarán Hanna on the importance of investigative journalism and the threats to it along with a Q&A with those associated with the film. £7

In Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis, author and columnist George Monbiot how traits of altruism and cooperation at the heart of human nature might lead us to create his vision of a new ‘politics of belonging’ through the reorganisation of democratic and economic life. QUB Peter Froggatt Centre on Tuesday 26 March at 7.30pm. £6/£4.

Are young people fed up with local politics? So you think we’re not interested? will explore political engagement among young people. The MAC on Wednesday 27 March from 2-4pm. FREE

Three media studies researchers will look at the impact social media is having on the mental health of young people in Young People & the Future: Social Media Literacy & Digital Culture. Their research has devised interventionist strategies to improve media literacy – a form of activism as well as resilience – to move beyond (negative) personal feelings to a more empowered collective understanding. UU Belfast Campus on Wednesday 27 March at 2.30pm. FREE

Mary Harney will speak about her life in politics as the first female leader of an Irish political party (the Progressive Democrats) and the first woman Tánaiste. She was also the youngest member of Senate and held ministerial positions. QUB Canada Room on Wednesday 27 March at 7.30pm. £5/£3

Journalist and former radio talk show and TV host Vincent Browne will discuss The Fortuitous Partition of Ireland in the Crescent Arts Centre on Wednesday 27 March at 7.30pm. £5/£3

John McCann’s one man play DUPed rocked last summer’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival and will be performed in Shaftesbury Square’s Accidental Theatre at 7.45pm from Wednesday 27 until Saturday 30 March. Based on interviews with activists and journalists, DUPed explores the legacy and continuing impact of the Rev Ian Richard Kyle Paisley and his Democratic Unionist Party have on those who oppose religious and social conservatism. £10/£8

Northern Ireland’s own fact-checking organisation FactCheckNI is hosting a discussion about the history of fact checking and the contemporary need for it. Why Does Fact Checking Matter? will explore the interplay of facts, opinion and power, accentuated by social media networks as a means to manipulate consent. Europa Hotel on Thursday 28 March at noon. FREE with light lunch provided.

Actor, writer, stand-up comedian, broadcaster and former lawyer at the Fair Employment Commission Tim McGarry is pondering starting his own Political Party in this revamped show as he humorously gets underneath the weighty subjects of gay cakes and Irish Language Acts while wondering whether you could run Northern Ireland better than the politicians we elect? The Black Box on Thursday 28 March at 7.30pm. £10/£8.

As he approaches his retirement this July from the post of Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire will reflect on criminal justice and What Does Independence Mean? in the QUB Peter Froggatt Centre on Thursday 28 March at 7.30pm. FREE

Gladys Ganiel, Maureen Hetherington, Nelson McCausland and Johnston McMaster will discuss Can You Ethically Commemorate the Troubles? Organised by the West Belfast Civil Rights Commemoration Committee in association with Slugger O’Toole. Dark Horse, Hill Street on Saturday 30 March at 2pm. FREE

1992 satirical mockumentary Bob Roberts starring Tim Robbins will be screened in the Queen’s Film Theatre on Saturday 30 March at 3.30pm followed by a panel discussion. £7.

Nae Pasaran tells the story of Scottish factory workers who in 1974 refused to repair jet engines from the Chilean Air Force. Their act of international solidarity lasted four years. Yet they had no idea of the impact of their activism. Screened in Queen’s Film Theatre on Sunday 31 March at 3.30pm followed by discussion. £7.

Campaigner Peter Tatchell is in conversation with William Crawley in UU’s Conor Lecture Theatre on Sunday 31 March at 7.30pm. £10/£8.

Join historical entertainer, satirist and leader of the RTE Late Late Show House Band Paddy Cullivan performs The Joy Of Brex in the Crescent Arts Centre on Sunday 31 March at 8pm. Expect a political cabaret show with laughs, insight, song about a post-Brexit world in 2029 when Trump is somehow starting his fourth term as US President, President Corbyn is presiding over the English Republic and Ireland is not united but agreed. £8/£6.

In the run up to the Imagine! Belfast Festival you can join in the rehabilitation of the humble wood pellet by placing your tongue firmly in your cheek and make models and artefacts with the little pellets. If you didn’t install an RHI boiler when they were all the rage, you can use the wood pellet cat litter you’ll find in pet shops and supermarkets. It’s more Cash for Art than Cash for Ash with a £200 prize up for grabs for the winning photograph as judged by an illustrious panel emailed through the festival [email protected] by 5pm on Friday 15 March. More details about the competition and the full programme [PDF] on the Imagine! Belfast website.