Once a purely fictional day envisaged by Dubliner James Joyce, Bloomsday has become a very real, and a very exciting day on the literary calendar. Here's how to enjoy it in Ireland.
Although Leopold Bloom’s magical day was spent in Dublin, Joycean excitement isn’t confined to the city and its suburbs. Pick your corner of the island on 16 June and you’ll find ladies donning dress of the era, while the men spruce themselves up in straw boaters and striped blazers to attend reenactments, readings, plays and concerts.
If you’re a strict follower of Leopold Bloom’s day, though, you need to be in Dublin.
Preserving the Legacy
In Dublin city, The James Joyce Centre is dedicated to preserving the author’s legacy. The museum organises events year round, as well as on Bloomsday and, as Mark Traynor from the centre says, Bloomsday is a big date in their calendar:
“We’ve been hosting events since the early 1990s, although we're always keen to stress that we don't 'own' the festival. There will be almost 50 unique events happening in Dublin over the course of the week of Bloomsday.”
Not sure exactly what you'd actually do in Dublin on and around Bloomsday? Allow us...
The Build Up: 14 - 15 June
Ulysses’ opening chapter is set in Sandycove, so begin your day there at the Martello Tower-housed James Joyce Museum. This part of Leopold Bloom’s day was based on real events when Joyce stayed in the tower with friend and owner Oliver St John Gogarty (he of the Temple Bar pub), immortalized in Ulysses as the character Buck Mulligan.
Want to (literally) follow in Leopold Bloom’s footsteps? The James Joyce Centre runs guided walking tours; feel free to join one or all of them! If you’d prefer to make your own way you can download this Ulysses map and take a ramble around the city for yourself.
Pop into Dublin’s colourful past at the light-hearted theatrical reenactment 1914 Dubliners Parliament on 14 June in the stunning Rotunda Pillar Room. On the agenda? Several motions from that period, such as Rule for Ireland, the abolition of censorship, and votes for women. You can even get involved by voting on the motions put forward, allowing you to get a real taste of 1900s political Ireland!
For something more laidback you can learn about the man behind the specs on a literary pub crawl in three of Dublin’s best-loved traditional pubs (14 & 15 June, 2pm). It's a heady literary afternoon in the company of charismatic poets, singers and storytellers. Expect to be charmed with local yarns and dramatic readings from both Dubliners and Ulysess while you relax over a pint.
Get your literary party hats on
If you're in the mood to party, the Happenings collective run pop-up and spontaneous cultural events around the city, and they have an extra-special party planned for Bloomsday. The Street Feast’s Bizarre Bloomsday Brunch takes place on 15 June on North Great George’s Street, home to the James Joyce Centre. It’s going to be ‘more Mad Hatter than High Society’. Expect tasty teatime treats right there on the street: cupcakes, cream buns, and plenty of wackiness.
The Big Day
Start the day off at the Joyce Centre with a traditional full-Irish Bewley’s Bloomsday Breakfast, where you can relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls just as Leopold Bloom did! Also on the menu: a troupe of Joycean players re-enacting scenes from Ulysess and musical numbers.
However you spend the day commemorating James Joyce, we recommend you finish the festival with a flourish by heading to At It Again’s special Bloomsday celebration and wrap party in The Sugar Club (16 June, 7pm). The main event? An interactive screening of Ulysses (1967). This includes party pieces, prizes for the best-dressed guest and props supplied from the Bloomsday Survival Kit. Intrigued? We are! Be warned, it’s adults only: the last half hour is a live version of Dirty Penelope! It’s all topped off with tunes to tap the night away to, wrapping up a festival to remember.