This year marks the centenary of the first edition of Ulysses, and the Bloomsday Festival is back and bigger than ever. Named after the novel’s protagonist, Leopold Bloom, Bloomsday takes place annually on June 16 to celebrate the legacy of the prolific Irish writer James Joyce and the day that his infamous book depicts. Bloomsday Festival has evolved to become not only a celebration of Joyce and Ulysses but also of Ireland’s capital city. With an endless array of events to attend in Dublin, from dramatic readings and live musical performances, to film screenings and walking tours, there’s certainly something for long-time Joyceans and newbies alike to do this Bloomsday.
Begin your Bloomsday adventure by following in the footsteps of Stephen Dedalus, Buck Mulligan and Haines with a seaside stop at the James Joyce Tower and Museum, located in Sandycove right beside the Forty Foot. A visit to this Martello tower is an absolute must on your itinerary as it is here that the very first episode of Ulysses, Telemachus, is set. If you’re in the mood for an early start, the museum is hosting a reading of this opening episode at 8am, coinciding with the novel’s timeline. There will be free admission to the tower throughout the day, from 10am to 4pm.
“Home to “Copy No. 1” of Ulysses, the Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI) has a jam-packed day in store for Joyce enthusiasts.”
Home to “Copy No. 1” of Ulysses, the Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI) has a jam-packed day in store for Joyce enthusiasts. For the student discounted rate of €8, you can purchase a ticket to attend any number of their vibrant range of daytime events, comprising “readings, screenings, discussion and music”. Highlights include the launch of The Cambridge Centenary Ulysses, a performance by Fran O’Rourke and John Feeley on James Joyce’s very own guitar, and a screening of Remarkable Women: The Tale Behind Ulysses.
During your afternoon escapades be sure to make a stop at the James Joyce Centre, a beautiful Georgian townhouse found on North Great George’s Street which holds some fascinating insights into the author’s life. An authentic impression of the room in which Joyce lived while working on Ulysses in Trieste, Zurich and Paris from 1914 to 1922 can be found here, as well as furniture from the apartment of Paul Léon, Joyce’s friend and advisor. The original front door from No. 7 Eccles Street (Leopold Bloom’s home in Ulysses) is on display in the yard at the back of the house and a striking copy of Joyce’s death mask by sculptor Paul Speck is also on view.
“Further immerse yourself in the novel by paying a visit to the iconic Sweny’s chemist on Lincoln Place, and make sure to purchase some “sweet lemony” soap while you’re there!”
Further immerse yourself in the novel by paying a visit to the iconic Sweny’s chemist on Lincoln Place, and make sure to purchase some “sweet lemony” soap while you’re there! The shop ceased trading in 2009 and is now a buzzing cultural hub that attracts Joyceans from across the globe.
The ninth episode of Joyce’s Trojan novel Ulysses is set in the National Library of Ireland, where Stephen delivers his highly anticipated lecture on Shakespeare and Hamlet and is certainly another place well worth a visit on Bloomsday. The library is home to a vast archival collection, ranging from photographs to newspapers and manuscripts.
Death is a central motif in Ulysses, as Stephen mourns the passing of his mother and Bloom attends the funeral of Paddy Dignam. This funeral is depicted in the Hades episode, taking place in the grounds of Glasnevin Cemetery which contains the graves of numerous historical figures notably the writer’s father, John Stanislaus Joyce.
This year’s Bloomsday celebrations leave us spoilt for choice on how to spend the evening, with plenty of entertainment on offer across Dublin for all those intrigued by the mystery of Ulysses.
For the film fanatics out there, the National Gallery is hosting a screening of Ulysses (1967), kicking off at 6pm. You can sit back, relax and enjoy this classic cinematic interpretation of Joyce’s ramblings for €9.
If you’re still feeling a bit energetic as the day comes to a close, arrive at Portobello Harbour by 6.30pm for a 45-minute “theatrical trail” which encompasses many of Ulysses’ key locations. Portobello is immortalised in the novel with Bloom’s house and birthplace set on Upper Clanbrassil Street. Reconvene at the harbour once more at 7.30pm for a scenic nature tour along the Grand Canal led by RTÉ and Virgin Media’s wildlife expert, Eanna Ní Lamhna. The tour includes readings of the “marriage of trees” from the Cyclops episode of Ulysses.
Party lovers re-Joyce! (See what we did there?)
Throw on your finery and dance to your heart’s content at MoLI’s spectacular garden party, starting at 7pm. Tickets are €25 a piece and are exclusively available to members of the Museum. Drinks are included and an exciting lineup of live musicians will be performing throughout the night.
“If fancy parties aren’t your cup of tea, indulge yourself in a Ulysses-inspired pub crawl”
If fancy parties aren’t your cup of tea, indulge yourself in a Ulysses-inspired pub crawl instead and purchase a pint from any of the following iconic watering holes mentioned throughout the novel: Davy Byrne’s, The International, The Oval, J. & M. Cleary or Kennedy’s.
Alternatively, you could wrap up the day with a peaceful walk into eternity along Sandymount Strand. If you’re lucky you might even spot some fireworks.