Exhibition of Troubles victims' shoes and over 80 more events at Imagine Festival 2018

Another eclectic programme of topical talks, workshops and art including a human installation at Barracks theatre is set for Belfast from March 12-18

With ongoing talks at Stormont on the brink of deciding what future lies ahead for Northern Ireland, there couldn't be a more timely moment for this year's Imagine Festival of Ideas and Politics to launch.

Announced today at Belfast's Ormeau Baths, the programme is the festival's biggest yet over 80 free events encouraging people to engage with the big issues of our times across more than 30 venues in the city. Download the full programme here or click here for the At a Glance listings.

Throughout a week of talks, workshops, theatre, poetry, comedy, music, exhibitions, film and tours Imagine will address subjects such as Brexit, poverty, inequality and fake news, with 'A Century of Women in Parliamentary Politics' and 'Books that Bend Bars' amongst the key events taking place from March 12-18.

If ever the world needed a festival of free spirits, of imagination and ideas, and of reason, it is now.

The line-up includes Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Michelle Shocked, affectionately known as the Godmother of Americana, who brings her unique blend of indie, folk, blues, and politics to the festival. Kildare-born stand-up Jarlath Regan’s ninth solo show, Organ Freeman, also comes to Imagine, fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe.

US Activist Carmen Perez – national co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington, which brought over five million people onto streets across the globe – will provide a keynote speech as part of a series of talks and workshops on the theme of Democracy Day, taking place on March 14.

Elsewhere, the renowned and often provocative journalist, Peter Hitchens, is set to stir controversy by arguing for closer and more trusting ties with Russia. Satire and political caricature are at the centre of veteran cartoonist Martin Rowson’s event, in which he explores the techniques, practice and purpose of his craft. And renowned Oxford Professor Danny Dorling will dive deep into assessing the extent to which inequality created the momentum behind the leave vote in 2016’s Brexit referendum.

For the entirety of the the festival artist Kate Guelke will barricade herself into a room in the Barracks theatre, depending on the public to provide her with the 'Bare Necessities' in an effort to examine how little we really need to get by.

There will be an exhibition at the Linen Hall Library entitled In Their Footsteps, comprised of pairs of shoes donated by families who lost loved ones during the Troubles, each with a small note on what the person represents. Of the theatre and drama on offer, a staged reading of Abby Mann’s Judgement at Nuremburg dealing with the Nazi war crime trials in 1947, is likely to be another powerful highlight.

The festival is also hosting a competition, inviting the public to submit short films on the vision they have for the world of tomorrow.

Alongside a host of other names and events hoped to attract over 5,000 people across the week, this year's programme has everything it needs to truly capture the imagination of Belfast.

For more on the Imagine Festival visit www.imaginebelfast.com.