VIDEO: Ulster Workers’ Council Strike: 50 Years On #imaginebelfast

Freeze frame from video of Ulster Workers’ Council Strike: 50 Years On event in Crescent Arts Centre - Connal Parr is standing at the podium - seated near him are Dawn Purvis, Carmel Gates, Harry Donaghy, Jackie Redpath and Jackie McDonald.

Last Saturday, an Imagine! Belfast Festival event looked back at the Ulster Workers’ Council Strike: 50 Years On. A decade on from his 40th anniversary conference at Queen’s University – you can still listen back to my recordings on Slugger – Dr Connal Parr was joined on the Crescent Arts Centre stage by panellists Dawn Purvis, Carmel Gates, Harry Donaghy, Jackie Redpath and Jackie McDonald. The video of this year’s event can now be viewed. Filmed and edited by Alan …

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The Art of Political Speechmaking – a dying art or still a vital talent? #imaginebelfast

Has the art of writing and delivering a political speech fallen by the wayside of a media landscape that vacuums up soundbites rather than valuing passionate prose? Next Thursday evening, some local politicians will recite elements of other people’s speeches which have influenced their own political journeys and discuss the importance of speechmaking in the current political climate. It’s part of the Imagine! Festival, and Claire Hanna (SDLP), Deirdre Hargey (Sinn Féin), Emma Little-Pengelly (DUP) and Kate Nicholl (Alliance) are …

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From Wisconsin to Belfast and Armagh: the beat of The Sullivan Squad’s drums and the Ojibwe language will feel familiar #imaginebelfast

The Sullivan family - parents and children - standing outdoors with a hand drum

Next week at Imagine! Festival there’s a chance to step outside the usual local context of the Irish language and Ulster Scots to look at an indigenous culture from northern Wisconsin. Imagine this: not everything that looks like a bodhrán and sounds like a bodhrán and is played like a bodhrán is actually a bodhrán. The hand drums brought to life by The Sullivan Squad look incredibly familiar, yet the colourful patterns on the band members clothing suggest that the …

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Looming Elections & Political Futures – Slugger’s event on 22 March at #ImagineBelfast

DUP's Ian Paisley (Junior) trying to tally the European election ballot papers (which must be placed upside down after verification) back in 2009 - photo by Alan Meban @alaninbelfast

The next 12 months will be fertile ground for election nerds. So we’re convening a panel of experts on Friday 22 March to discuss which way the political wind is blowing as part of this month’s Imagine! Festival of Ideas and Politics. The next United Kingdom general election must be held no later than 28 January 2025. The deadline for the next Irish general election is 22 March 2025. Both polls are likely to see big political swings and will …

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Misinformation, harms and the dangers of online censorship – join the Battle of Ideas on Saturday #imaginebelfast

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.

Zines, baggage, othering words and lots more from Second Collective at #imaginebelfast

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 …

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Cancellation & Censorship in Film – five screenings & a talk at #imaginebelfast

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 …

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Bill Wolsey on his idea to turn Belfast city centre into a living museum for Belfast? And the role of awkward individuals in making change happen! #imaginebelfast

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.

To 2031 and beyond … Neil Hegarty’s vision of this island in ten years’ time #imaginebelfast

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?

The State of Us … Previewing the seventh annual Imagine! Festival of Ideas and Politics (22-28 March)

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: Sam McBride on the RHI Inquiry Report #ImagineBelfast

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.

Day three of #ImagineBelfast’s virtual festival of ideas and politics – finishing at 8pm with an interview with Burned author Sam McBride

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.

Tune into day two of #ImagineBelfast’s online festival between 1pm and 9pm for democracy, fact-checking, commemoration, abomination, music and more

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.

Slugger TV – the ‘Events, dear boy, events’ episode #imaginebelfast

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?

Soapbox: Democracy Day 2020 helps launch 14 initiatives to involve the public more in decision-making

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.

Does Political Violence Work? #imaginebelfast

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.