Once a purely fictional day envisaged by Dubliner James Joyce, Bloomsday has become such an engaging calendar event for Joyce’s fans that they dress up in full Edwardian regalia in celebration
Named after Leopold Bloom, the main character in the literary masterpiece Ulysses, June 16 is a day to remember the works of the Nobel Laureate and beloved Dubliner, James Joyce.
Although the magical day was spent in Dublin, Joycean fans don’t just contain their excitement to the city and its suburbs. In many corners of the island, you’ll find ladies donning long skirts and hats of the era, while the men spruce themselves up in straw boaters and striped blazers to enjoy reenactments, readings, plays and concerts.
If you’re a strict follower of Leopold Bloom’s day, though, then Dublin is your destination. In the city centre, The James Joyce Centre is dedicated to preserving the author’s legacy and it organises events year round, as well as on Bloomsday. Mark Traynor from the centre says: “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.”
The big day – be prepared
Ulysses’ opening chapter is set in Sandycove, so begin your day at The James Joyce Museum at the Martello Tower. This part of Leopold Bloom’s day was based on real events, when Joyce stayed in the tower with friend and owner Oliver St Gogarty, who was the character Buck Mulligan as penned by Joyce.
Close by in Dun Laoghaire, the Promenade Café serves a “Special Leopold Bloom Breakfast” to get your Bloomsday started on a full stomach. Bewley’s Café in the city will also be serving authentic Edwardian grub. While you're eating, a Joycean troupe reenacts the breakfast scene from the book, including eating “with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls”…
Follow in Bloom’s footsteps
After such a hearty morning meal, it’s probably time to walk it off. The James Joyce Centre runs guided walking and bus tours. If you’d prefer to make your own way, though, you can download this Ulysses map, or follow one of these special Joycean tours, which cover Bloom’s various journeys as he crosses the city with Nora Barnacle.
Another wonderful sight to keep an eye out for is the messenger bike rally, where costumed cyclists spin around the city on Edwardian bikes. Launched by the Lord Mayor, The 20th Bloomsday Messenger Bike Rally & Lunch is also a charity event as well as a pretty good spectacle! Or catch Joyce brought to life on stage at The New Theatre – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and (S)quark! will both run during June.
It’s reckoned that about 3,000 people celebrate Bloomsday every year in Dublin, with over half of those coming from overseas. The words of Joyce, it seems, are as exalted abroad as they are in Ireland. Actress Katie O’Kelly performed her one-man show Joyced at the Ibsen Museum in Oslo, Norway on Bloomsday back in 2011.
She recalls, “it was amazing meeting so many people interested in Joyce, and seeing people dressed up in boaters cycling around Oslo. You begin to realise what a big deal Joyce is all over the world, not just in Ireland.”
Actress Katie O'Kelly in the play Joyced
And to keep Joyce fans entertained all over the world, The Global Bloomsday Gathering will see a 28-hour live reading of Ulysses streamed from across the globe. Twenty five cities will be taking part, with 45 minutes of reading allocated to each one. Launching this event is the publication of of a special Dublin edition of Ulysses (1922 text) by The O’Brien Press.
Perhaps, you will be donning your boater this year and joining the Bloomsday crowds?