Bloomsday 2021: Everything you need to know

How to celebrate Ulysses, James Joyce’s great novel, set in Dublin on June 16th, 1904

John Shevlin is a Dublin based milliner who makes exquisite hats for a living. Once a year in June he transforms into James Joyce for Bloomsday. Video: Bryan O’Brien

 

What’s happening on June 16th?
It’s Bloomsday, when James Joyce devotees celebrate his novel Ulysses.

Remind me why that is
Joyce’s enormous, ground-breaking piece of fiction, featuring Leopold Bloom among its cast of characters, is set on a single day, June 16th, 1904. It describes the life of the city in such detail that the writer once said that if Dublin were to be destroyed, Ulysses could be used to rebuild it brick by brick.

So how is Bloomsday being marked this year?
With a whole host of events and activities – as in 2020, they’re primarily online, although there will be some live elements, too. They’re also on for a lot longer than just Bloomsday, so if you can’t catch everything on Wednesday there will be opportunities to see them again.

What kinds of things are going on?
On Tuesday, June 15th (7pm via Zoom), the historian Donal Fallon will explore Joseph Strick’s 1967 film of Ulysses and the feedback it received at the time.

Bloomsday itself kicks off at 8am with the Bloomsday Breakfast, one of the festival’s most established traditions, which celebrates Leopold Bloom’s famous meal of grilled kidneys. You can watch online on Bloomsday’s Facebook page or YouTube channel. It will include performances and songs from Ulysses with Sinead Murphy, Darina Gallagher, Les Doherty and Elaine Reddy.

Also online at 8am, Balloonatics present The Blooms at Breakfast, when its street-theatre performers will be transposing their traditional Bloomsday walk into a dramatised reading of Ulysses’ Calypso episode.

Now that lockdown restrictions have started to lift, Pat Liddy will be leading his Bloomsday Walking Tour at 10.30am and 2.30pm on Wednesday.

At 3pm Balloonatics and Trinity College Dublin’s V-Sense present an online reading of the opening pages of Ulysses from a virtual-reality version of Joyce’s martello tower, in Sandycove, in south Co Dublin.

Later on, the comedian and performer Katherine Lynch will host an evening of readings and songs. She’ll be joined by a cast of Irish writers, actors, musicians and pundits, who will read extracts from Ulysses and travel to many of the novel’s key locations around Dublin. That’s at 6pm on Bloomsday’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Following its successful 2020 premiere, A Joycean Punk Cabaret (of sorts), presented by the Dublin-based Corps Ensemble and hosted by the actor Mary Murray, is an alternative presentation of extracts, songs, poetry and music, celebrating all things Joycean. It takes place at 8pm via livestream from the James Joyce Centre in Dublin.

The Bloomsday Film Festival has a whole new selection of Joycean films to enjoy. The selected works will be available online for the duration of the Bloomsday Festival.

Deirdre Mulrooney and Evanna Lynch continue their exploration and reclamation of Lucia Joyce, the writer’s daughter, as an artist with an online reading of Calico by Michael Hastings, which is available to watch online.

Pomes Penyeach, also available to watch online, sets the poetry of James Joyce to the music of some of Ireland’s finest contemporary musicians.

From Word Up, a spoken-word collective, Ulysses 2021 brings together artists to tell a story of 21st-century Dublin and “to interweave narratives and repaint the city’s occupants for the modern age”.

What if I’m not in Ireland?
No problem. Apart from being able to watch Dublin’s events online, you can catch many other events taking place around the world to celebrate Ulysses, from the United States to Australia. You can find further details here.

How can I find out more about Ulysses and its author?
Try Declan Kiberd’s Irish Times article Ulysses and Us or, if you haven’t read the novel yet, try Eileen Battersby’s five reasons to dive into this work of fiction. Also worth checking out are Deirdre Mulrooney on Joyce’s daughter, Lucia, and how The Irish Times reviewed Joyce in the 1920s.

You can explore the full Bloomsday Festival 2021 programme here

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