For those who harboured hopes and continue to believe that the online exchange of information and ideas could be a boost to knowledge and debate, and even fuel a more enlightened society, questions around misinformation and harm raise important questions as to how the online experience might be defended and developed – as a site of potential liberation as it was once envisaged, and hopefully still can be. Whatever your view, these issues are surely worth discussing. Which is exactly what we’ll be doing this Saturday at the Belfast Battle of Ideas.
Art is political. It can be provocative and challenging. It can help us understand society as much as reading the newspaper or reading a book … or a blog post. But do the public take it seriously? Second Collective are running a series of exhibitions, workshops and events across the week of Imagine! Festival. I recently spoke to its cofounders, Cathy Scullion and Sinead O’Neill Nicholl. Graduating as mature students, they set up Second Collective in 2017. Today it’s based …
I recently caught up with Hugh Odling-Smee from FilmHubNI who are supporting a strand of films at this year’s Imagine! Festival that explore cancellation and censorship. Ourselves Alone is described as one of the most significant films ever made about the Troubles, a powerful story of love and conflicting loyalties set against the battle for Ireland’s independence. Set in 1921, it’s the story of a young girl under pressure, torn between loyalty to her brother (unbeknownst to her an IRA …
Bill Wolsey outlines his idea for Belfast city centre to be a living museum with museum artefacts displayed in shop windows, bring the museum to the people. His idea hasn’t had much traction with the Ulster Museum,but he’s pitched it again as part of Imagine! Festival’s Build Belfast Back Better initiative. He also explains the role of awkward individuals in making progress happen.
Talking to writer and novelist Neil Hegarty about the talk ‘2031’ he will deliver at next week’s Imagine! festival, imagining what this island might look like in a decade and asking whether we’re prepared for the political, societal, environmental changes that will surely have a huge impact on the way life is going to play out?
Chatting to Gavin Esler ahead of his appearance on Saturday 27 at this year’s Imagine! Festival. He’s enthusiastic to be back talking about his book How Britain Ends, though is disappointed not to have the excuse to meet up with old friends and walk the streets he knows so well from living and working in the city.
A quick rummage through the Imagine! Belfast programme coming up between 22–28 March. Under the strapline of The State of Us, there’ll be exhibitions, workshops, lectures, film, comedy, music, spoken word, lectures, theatre and quizzes. Voices from at home and abroad. The festival isn’t afraid to challenge. It doesn’t expect participants to agree with everything that is said. It’s about making people think. Widening their horizons. Broadening their understanding. Developing their empathy. Helping them figure out why – and if – they truly believe the hunches and biases they may have been living with for a lifetime.
Watch back my interview with Sam McBride – author of Burned – to candidly discuss his impressions of the Renewable Heat Incentive inquiry’s report – the final part of this year’s unexpectedly free and online Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics. Everything that has been broadcast over the last three days is available to watch back on the Imagine! website.
Having sold out two nights of Sam McBride in conversation with William Crawley at the close of the planned week of face-to-face events, the virtual Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics broadcast will finish at 8pm this evening with the author of Burned talking about his impressions of the published RHI Inquiry Report. Before that, from 1pm you can watch talks about economic growth and community banking, a reprise of Lord Patten of Barnes’ recent speech in Belfast when he reminisced about his time in Northern Ireland and his reflections on the Patten report into police reform, thoughts on how COVID-19 has challenged the arts sector and may change political culture, as well as comedy from Stand Up, Speak Out and the Democracy Inspector.
Day two of the virtual Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics will be streaming talks and interviews between 1pm and 9pm. Expect discussion about democracy, a talk by Prof John Barry, an interview with the maker of a behind-the-scenes documentary about Abomination: A DUP Opera, as well as a dip into last year’s festival archive for a session on the ethical commemoration of the Troubles and why fact-checking matters. There are also locally-made short films in the regular Film Devour Showcase slots, and musical entertainment to brighten up the evening from Emer Maguire. And if you missed the latest episode of Slugger TV yesterday, it’s available to watch again on the Imagine! Belfast website.
In our latest episode, Alan Meban talks to Irish News journalist Allison Morris and Imagine! Festival director Peter O’Neill about the political response to COVID-19. Recorded as part of the unexpectedly online Imagine! Festival of Ideas and Politics. How is the new Northern Ireland Executive have reacted to the predictable (such as the publication of the RHI report) and how is the Executive stepping up to collectively address the totally unpredictable COVID-19 crisis. Is the New Decade, New Approach a sign of hope, or will it become New Enemy, Same Bad Habits?
This time last week, more than 100 people gathered in Parliament Building’s Long Gallery for the fourth annual Democracy Day to share ideas about involving the public more in decision-making. At the heart of the programme organised by the Community Foundation in association with Imagine! Belfast Festival, 30 one-minute pitches made by organisations looking for support to hone their proposals and work with partners to deliver change.
QUB pro-vice-chancellor Professor Richard English delivered a 40-minute talk on the topic of Does Political Violence Work? during the recent Imagine! Belfast festival, looking at terrorism by non-state and potentially state actors as well as drawing some conclusions about the disjunction between why campaigns start, why people join up, what is achieved and how we post hoc rationalise what happens.
In his last public lecture as his seven-year term as Police Ombudsman draws to a close, Dr Michael Maguire reflected on what independence means for his office, and lessons that can be learned. “You cannot take independence for granted. It can be undermined in a number of different ways. Whoever holds the post of police ombudsman must keep this in mind. Be aware some entirely innocent initiatives can have unintended consequences.”
Between 12 and 18 March, Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics will host 80 free events in over 30 venues across the city to encourage people to engage with the big issues of our times, whether that be Brexit, poverty, (in)equality, gender or fake news. There’ll be talks, workshops, theatre, comedy, music, film, tours, exhibitions, dance, poetry and a video competition.