Imagine Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics takes places from 20th to 26th March, with over eighty events, most of them free. The annual event aims to encourage participation from people not normally involved in political debate and stimulate a discussion on new ideas and activism. The festival seeks to cover a wide spectrum of issues including, but certainly not limited to, mainstream political debate. Coming so soon after the local Assembly Election, the festival – not affiliated to any political party and “relatively non-partisan” – promises to be an engaging and enlightening week of activity. We look at some of the literary highlights happening throughout the week.
Community Arts Partnership, Donegall St. Place, 20th March: 2.00pm – 5.00pm, admission free
A poetry competition on the theme of politics will be organised in the run up and during the festival for new and emerging poets and will be facilitated by the festival in association with Community Arts Partnership. This year the festival interested in receiving short poems on a political theme, and are particularly interested in hearing from unpublished poets and people who have never thought about writing poetry before. Judges will include Pádraig Ó Tuama, Chelley McLear and festival director Peter O’Neill. A prize of £200 will be awarded to the best poem received. A workshop facilitated by Chelley will take place on 20 March at 2pm to assist with the submission process. Places are limited to 15 so please register early. For details on how to enter and register for the workshop, please see the link above.
Old Staff Common Room, QUB, 21st March: 12.30pm – 2.00pm, admission free
This talk by Geoffrey Crossick, Professor of the Humanities, School of Advanced Study, University of London, poses a fundamental question: how good are we at understanding the difference that arts and culture makes to individuals and to society? This is not a question of claiming art for arts sake, but of identifying the most compelling ways in which arts and cultural engagement make a difference to individuals and make a difference to society.
Ulster University Belfast Campus, 23rd March: 10.00am – 12.00pm, admission free
In this hands-on workshop, researchers from Ulster University will explore the universal properties of human language to create an alien language that can still be spoken by human actors. Linguists invent languages for science fiction and fantasy films and novels and use what we know about human languages to make their new constructed language, or ‘conlang’, as human or as ‘un-human‘ as possible depending on whether the fictional speakers are humans in a different era (eg. Dothraki in Game of Thrones) or aliens from a different planet (eg. Klingon in Star Trek).
The MAC, Exchange Street, 23rd March: 2.00pm – 5.00pm, admission free
A practical workshop for people interested in exploring political ideas through theatre, delivered by Tinderbox Theatre Company. (Places are limited so please register early.)
Waterstones, Fountain Street, 23rd March: 6.30pm – 8.00pm, admission free
Join Maya Parmar and Shaf Towheed from The Open University for a cup of coffee and a relaxed evening of facilitated reading groups. With a focus on ‘reading across divisions’, Maya and Shaf will provide extracts from a range of prose and poetry to facilitate discussion around themes of conflict for an interactive and discursive workshop.
Belfast Room, Ulster Museum, 26th March: 2.00pm – 3.00pm, admission free
Dr Bree Hocking from The Open University for an exploration of fantasy and fiction across Belfast’s post-industrial landscapes. Bree will examine East Belfast’s transition to a ‘nearly true’ land of whimsy and pleasure through the emerging Narnia-fication of the built environment there.