The Bloomsday Festival is Dublin’s week long literary street carnival that celebrates James Joyce’s iconic novel Ulysses. Joyce is known for writing about life’s intimate moments. When Ulysses was published, some thought it obscene and unreadable. Joyce responded “if Ulysses isn’t fit to read, then life isn’t fit to live”. This year we are toasting life and the continuing power that Joyce’s writings have to excite and inspire.
On 16th June 1954, a group of friends set out across Dublin to recreate Ulysses. They travelled in a horse and carriage, reading the story aloud to each other and re-living the book. Ever since then, Dubliners have created their own Bloomsday traditions.
From these spontaneous origins, the Bloomsday Festival has developed into a colourful and diverse celebration of Joyce and Ulysses. Festival highlights include delicious Bloomsday breakfasts, pub crawls, walking tours through Joyce’s Dublin, and lively literary cabaret. The week of the festival is filled with thought-provoking interviews and contemporary theatre, art and music inspired by Joyce.
Every Dubliner has their own story about James Joyce, and no one more so than our best-known Joycean, Senator David Norris. For our Bloomsday Interview, Senator Norris will sit down with RTE presenter and former newsreader Anne Doyle to discuss all things Joyce. The interview will take place in Joyce’s alma mater, Belvedere College.
Something is very wrong for Leopold Bloom, worldwide phenomenon and hero of Ulysses. Visitations from the future, ghosts from the past and the burning question “Who am I and where do I belong?” Find out more with “bloominauschwitz” at the New Theatre.
The “Ulysses Haiku Project” curated by Nickie Hayden has been growing for more than a year. Add your own 17 syllable Bloomsday story and enjoy the pithy poems of others, including Stephen Fry and Paula Meehan. Animation and illustration students have explored James Joyce and the city that inspired him. See the results at “A Vision of Joyce”.
Lucia Joyce has been portrayed in a number of ways: as her father’s muse, Samuel Beckett’s lover, an ill-fated dancer, and as clinically insane. Join us for a discussion on “How to Imagine Lucia Joyce”as we explore the merits and pitfalls of imagining who Lucia was. Or take in film documentary “Horrible Creature” which draws on Lucia’s writing to explore her world between 1915 and 1950.
A Bloomsday in Dublin is so special because you can visit places immortalised in Ulysses. Dive into the sea by the James Joyce Tower and Museum or reflect upon all the living and the dead at Glasnevin Cemetery. Dwell on “The Heaventree of Stars”at Dunsink Observatory or enjoy the intimate atmosphere at Sweny’s Chemist. Experience the “Dalkey Schoolroom Scene”or lose yourself in literature at the National Library of Ireland.
Prepare for Bloomsday with “Ulysses for All”. You will be taken on a whistle stop ride through Ulysses and the colourful traditions that make Bloomsday so life-enhancing. Is Bloomsday all about dressing the part? Come and create a character from Ulysses at the Dublin Body Painting Jam. You might also spot them as their wandering parade passes through the city.
“On Joyce and Intimacy”brings together Norwegian writerVigdis Hjorth and Dublin-based author June Caldwellto confront the challenges and pleasures of shedding light on the dark and complex. The discussion will be enlivened with readings from Joyce’s works and letters.
In the final chapter of Ulysses, Molly Bloom urges us to “Go and Create Something”. Actor Janet Moran, who played Molly Bloom in the Abbey Theatre production of Ulysses, joins filmmaker Tommy Creagh and illustrator Niall Laverty from At it Again! to discuss Joyce’s impact on their work.
“Poetry Brothel”, the literary nightclub in honour of James Joyce, invites you to take Molly’s words to heart: “O, rocks, tell us in plain words”. Like wandering rocks transmigrating from dawn until dusk they will celebrate the city of Dublin on Bloomsday Eve.
You can enjoy a traditional “Bloomsday Breakfast” with optional grisly bits at the James Joyce Centre as well as the “Joyce of Breakfast” throughout the festival. If you are a foodie, try the “Joycean Food Trail” for a contemporary twist on the food of Ulysses or, on the big day itself, partake of “Afternoon Tea” at the James Joyce Centre. Actor Mary McEvoy and soprano Sandra Omanwillconjure up the world of Joyce through chat, songs and extracts from the Blue Book of Eccles.
The signature “Bloomsday Readings & Song”event takes place in Wolfe Tone Square, in the heart of Joyce’s Dublin. Our host this year is the writer Christine Dwyer Hickey, who has often stated that she is indebted to Mr Joyce.If you are looking for a Bloomsday adventure, you can choose between bespoke bus tours and diverting walking tours. If you don’t want to cross Dublin without passing a pub, then check out the “Joyce of Whiskey” tour or one of the many pub crawls.
On the “Bloomsday Villages” trail explore Dublin through the varifocal lens of Joyce’s epic Ulysses. Who knows which characters you’ll meet and what tales will unfold. Hearing Ulysses performed on location by passionate fans is pure magic. The packed Bloomsday Fringe promises “real Irish fun without vulgarity”.
Pop the cork on two immortal sources of creative comic genius: James Joyce and Marilyn Monroe at “How to Marry a Literary Genius”. Unravel the mysteries of the text with “Strolling through Ulysses” and “Blooming Ulysses”. Or take to the streets with “A Play on Ulysses”.
In Ulysses “there’s music everywhere”. Tune into “A Joycean Seranata”or “Voices of Joyce”, which offers the chance to relive an Edwardian soirée in the building where James Joyce had singing lessons. Listen in on Joyce’s conversation with Proust at “Of Thyme and Rosemary” or discover Leopold’s Jewish roots with the Irish Jewish Museum. Throughart, fables, and literary discussion we’ll be “Celebrating Finnegans Wake” and with “Olives, Oysters and Oranges” we’lllook at the signs and symbols of food in Ulysses.
James Joyce famously said of his home city ‘‘When I die, Dublin will be written in my heart’’. Through “Ulysses in Distant Lands” writers give us a flavour of their own home places, their own personal odysseys.
At the end of it all head for Monto, where the “Bloomsday Blowout” promises a glorious convergence of Bloomsday adventurers and chancers. In one moment it’s an intimate evening of readings and song. In the next it’s comedy and antics and shape-shifting midsummer madness.