Belfast Lord Mayor launches the Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics 2022 – 21 to 27 Mar

Annual festival returns with over 150 in-person and online events

The Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics (21st March – 27th March) today launched its biggest ever programme for 2022 with the Rt. Hon. the Lord Mayor, Councillor Kate Nicholl and Northern Ireland’s Queen of Comedy, Nuala McKeever.  The strictly non-partisan festival returns to live events after two years of operating online.

The week-long programme is an eclectic mix of talks, workshops, theatre, comedy, music, exhibitions, film and tours with over 150 in-person and online events.  Now in its eighth year, the majority of events are free and will take place online and in venues across the city. This year has seen an increase in grass-root organisations participating in the festival bringing new and fresh perspectives on a diverse range of important and provocative issues.  Keynote speakers include the internationally renowned historian, Michael Ignatieff; iconic musician and broadcaster, Tom Robinson; leading author Kit de Waal and legendary poet Michael Longley, CBE to name just a few.

Speaking at the launch about this year’s programme, Festival director and founder, Peter O’Neill said:

“We are delighted to present our largest ever festival. With over 150 events, there’s something for everyone in this eclectic programme, as we try to make sense of this volatile world. Our aim is to encourage participation from people not normally involved in political debate and stimulate a discussion on new ideas on culture and activism. As most of the events are free, everyone will be able to enjoy this annual showcase of talks and cultural events.”

The festival will host a number of interesting placemaking events organised by Artists in Residence: The International Peripatetic Sculptors’ Society.  The Glasgow-based artists will lead participants on a series of performative walking tours, exploring the city and making instant sculptural works.  In addition the Sheffield group of artists known as the Bare Project will organise tours of Belfast alley ways and entries in the innovative project ‘Meet Me in the Alley’.  There will also 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 as part of the ‘Belfast Battle of Ideas.’  Censorship will also be explored in an exciting film strand curated with Queen’s Film Theatre where a series of films previously banned in Belfast will be shown and discussed. Furthermore, ‘Democracy Day’ will return on 25th March with a packed programme of talks and workshops examining ways to modernise and invigorate local politics in the run up to the NI Assembly elections.

This year the festival has taken the theme of ‘Road Test Your Reality’.  Peter O’Neill explained the concept at the launch:

“It’s often said that ‘everyone is entitled to their own opinions’ but we think it’s important to also regularly re-examine and reflect on how we view the world around us. With this in mind, we’re inviting people to come along to this year’s programme of events and consider how well their own bubble of reality stacks up against the wildly diverse range of viewpoints and perspectives presented in this year’s festival.  We want people to debate the big issues of our times, explore political themes through the arts and listen to different arguments in this contested period in our history, while having some fun!”

Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Kate Nicholl said: “We’re really proud to be supporting this year’s Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics. The team has curated such an entertaining, thought provoking and inspirational programme. Cultural events like these give us the chance to take a little time out from the responsibilities of day-to-day life and consider the world around us from a different perspective – to be challenged a little, to laugh together, and maybe even to be uplifted!”

Liam Hannaway, Chair of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,” The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support Imagine! Belfast. For a festival which revels in taking on the big issues of our time and exploring new ways of approaching our cultures and our politics, away from the mainstream, it gives a welcome platform to alternative voices, represented through the arts, and I encourage as many people as possible to visit and enjoy the experience.”

The Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics 2022 programme is now available to view online via

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