Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics Returns with Virtual Programme

Annual Festival places Belfast on Global Stage with World-Renowned Line-Up 

One of Belfast’s most innovative and engaging festivals, Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics (22nd – 28th March) returns for its seventh year. The festival launched its virtual programme for 2021 today (18th February) with comedian Tim McGarry.­

The week-long festival will host 115 webcasts (the great majority of which are free) during March and will explore the theme, ‘The State of Us’ and pertinent topics including, the centenary of the formation of Northern Ireland, Brexit, climate change, COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter.

The virtual nature of this year’s event means it has attracted leading global figures and experts from around the world including Noam Chomsky, regarded as one of the leading intellectuals of our age, renowned playwright and commentator Bonnie Greer and a host of local talent.  Other ‘headliners’ include Bill McKibben, Angie Drobnic Holan, Paul Mason, Claire Fox, Gavin Esler, Roman Krznaric, Neil Hegarty, Sinéad Gleeson, Charles Leadbeater and Senator Eileen Flynn.  Working with over 50 festival partners, events have been organised, for example, with the British Academy, Ulster Orchestra, Ballet Black, the Chilian arts group Memorante, open Democracy and the Victoria & Albert Museum. The strictly non-partisan festival offers up an eclectic week of online talks, workshops, theatre, comedy, music, film and poetry to help us navigate the challenges of tomorrow.

Speaking at the festival launch, Peter O’Neill, founder and festival director said:
“We are delighted to launch the Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics virtually this year.  The virtual element means we have been able to bring some of the world’s most important experts and commentators to our festival.  This year’s festival will allow us to look outside of Northern Ireland, to discuss and debate new perspectives and to enable us all to broaden our horizons and viewpoints.”

He continues,
“2020 really was ‘the year that never was’ and as such we have designed a programme that resonates with that sentiment and reflects on the first anniversary of the UK Covid lockdown on 23rd March. Whilst we must address the pandemic, it is by no means the central focus of the festival which looks at the state that we’re in by examining constitutional, social, economic and cultural challenges.  We are encouraging people to submit ideas for our ‘Building Belfast Back Better’ campaign which is a nod to the future.  We want people to submit ideas on what should be different and better in Belfast post-pandemic via our website which will also showcase a number of other exciting projects during the festival.”

Peter concludes:
“We encourage everyone to review our 2021 programme at and find something that resonates with them.  The absence of live events has been sorely missed and our virtual webcasts provide an opportunity to connect with that experience once again.  So, whether its film, comedy, a political debate or simply an evening with Tim McGarry there truly is something for everyone.  Come explore ‘the state of us’ with Imagine! Belfast!”

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:
“The Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics has a tremendous track record for introducing Northern Ireland audiences to new ideas and work from the world’s leading creative and cultural representatives. The timing couldn’t be better, as we need innovative thinking and the inspiration of the arts possibly now more than ever, as everyone begins to negotiate their way around the ‘new normal’, post-Covid and post-Brexit. The Arts Council is delighted to support this year’s online festival through our emergency Covid-19 support programmes for arts and cultural organisations, with funding from the Department for Communities.”

The Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics 2021 programme is now available to view online via
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