Bloomsday: what’s it all about?
It all comes back to James Joyce’s Ulysses. The Irish writer’s brilliant, challenging novel brings us into the mind of Leopold Bloom as he walks around Dublin on 16 June 1904 – Bloom’s day. Now, the city marks this day with activities that range from Ulysses readings and literary lectures to walking tours and pub crawls. Hard-core fans even dress in the style of the early 1900s – straw boater hats are particularly popular!
James Joyce statue, Dublin
Bloomsday Festival: things to do
Every year, the Bloomsday Festival brings together artists, writers, literature fans and academics to celebrate Ulysses and its legacy. So if you’re lucky enough to be in Dublin on 16 June, you can choose from an eclectic range of Joycean events.
Look out for readings, dramatisations and other events hosted in the James Joyce Centre, an elegant Georgian townhouse in North Great George's Street. Drop into the James Joyce Tower and Museum at Sandycove, south of the city, the setting for the opening chapter of Ulysses, where you’ll find a programme of free activities including musical events and tours of the iconic tower. Visit the Museum of Modern Literature (MoLI) on St Stephen’s Green to learn about the impact of Joyce on Ireland’s literature or stop into the National Gallery to see some portraits of the artist.
For those who can’t make the trip to Ireland, there are plenty of online events to tune into so no matter where you are in the world, you can still be a part of the Bloomsday experience.
Sweny's Pharmacy, Dublin
Bloomsday: where to go
Maybe you'd prefer to do it your way and plan your own Bloomsday activities. Why not step out on a walking tour that lets you follow in the footsteps of Leopold Bloom? Visit iconic locations such as Sandymount Strand, Sweny’s Pharmacy (now a visitor centre but you can still buy a bar of the novel’s famous lemon soap here), Glasnevin Cemetery and the Gresham Hotel. The James Joyce Centre has created a downloadable map of 24 locations from Ulysses to guide you round the city.
Full Irish breakfast ©Shutterstock
Bloomsday: food and drink
Bloomsday is a busy day so you’ll need to keep yourself refuelled. Start with one of the festival’s most established traditions – a full Irish Bloomsday Breakfast at the James Joyce Centre (the kidneys so enjoyed by Mr Bloom are optional). For lunch, we suggest you follow the character’s example with a gorgonzola and mustard sandwich and a glass of Burgundy at Davy Byrne’s pub or head to Fitzgerald’s in Sandycove, a pub with a distinctly Joycean theme.
Davy Byrnes, Dublin ©Shutterstock
Unlocking the secrets of Ulysses
Since its publication in 1922, academics and scholars have been discussing, analysing and dissecting every word in Ulysses. The result? Many consider the book a bit of a challenge! Not so, says Robert Gogan: his remastered edition of Ulysses introduces modern user-friendly formatting by applying additional punctuation, without changing a single word or syllable of the original text. Take a bow, Mr Gogan!
Maybe it’s time you familiarise yourself with this modern classic!