The annual celebration of Ireland’s most famous author, James Joyce, is just around the corner. Known as Bloomsday, it gives literary fans a chance to recreate events of Joyce’s most esteemed novel, Ulysses. It’s held on June 16, the day that the book’s events take place and the date when Joyce and his wife went out together for the first time.
Before the events of 2020, it was a jam-packed day of literary events and people dressing up in Bloomsday costumes. But, due to the pandemic, Bloomsday has been more like Zoomsday in recent times. Luckily, there are plenty of creative ways to celebrate Joyce’s famous novel this year, whether online or in person. From a Bloomsday walk to virtual reading, here are seven literary ideas that you can organise this June.
1. Educate attendees about Joyce
Bloomsday is a fantastic opportunity to introduce people to the work of Joyce. Why not hold an educational event that explores his life and novels? You could get a few literary experts together and organise a panel discussion between them, covering a number of topics, including why they believe Joyce’s work is still relevant today.
To help ensure a successful event, promote it to a variety of demographics, from literature students who are more familiar with Ulysses to those reading it for the first time. An event like this is simple to hold in person or via a livestream, depending on what restrictions are in place come June 16.
2. Arrange a reading
At the heart of any Bloomsday celebration is Joyce’s Ulysses, so what better way to honour the famous pages than by arranging a reading from it? As it’s more than 700 pages long, we don’t recommend a reading of the complete work unless you’re a true devotee! Instead, you could invite prominent Irish figures to recite their favourite passages. If you’re not sure how to go about securing speakers, take a look at these strategies for tips on convincing them to work with you.
Whether you’re holding the event virtually or in person, it’s worth encouraging the audience to read sections from the novel, too, or share their thoughts on it. Involving your attendees like this can boost engagement and help to combat lockdown fatigue.
3. Set up a Bloomsday book club
Get in the Bloomsday spirit by hosting a Joyce-themed book club event. Ulysses is a hefty novel, so perhaps pick out sections that you’d like attendees to read ahead of the event and share questions or themes for them to consider beforehand. You could even invite input from literary experts to give participants a helping hand in tackling the notoriously difficult book. (Attendees could be persuaded to take on the challenge with the knowledge that they’ll forever have the bragging rights if they finish it.)
Book clubs are cost-effective to run and a fun way to create a sense of community. Plus, they can easily be taken online if you’re unable to meet up in real life.
4. Put on a performance
Bring the characters to life by hosting a performance of Ulysses. Actors could play out the events of the novel in the exact same places that they happened, either to a live audience or a virtual one. If you want to go all out and reenact the entire book, consider putting on a marathon performance for hardcore fans. In 2020, RTÉ broadcast a 30-hour dramatisation of Ulysses, beginning with the moment Bloom starts his journey through Dublin on the morning of June 16.
5. Organise a walking tour
A walking tour of Dublin is another immersive way of celebrating Joyce’s novel. Participants could be shown, either in person or via a livestream, the key locations mentioned in Ulysses. You could retrace Bloom’s steps around Dublin, starting at The James Joyce Tower and Museum at Sandycove, the site of the opening chapter. The tour could then continue on to other landmarks, such as Davy Byrne’s pub and Sweny’s pharmacy on Lincoln Place. Encourage attendees to wear Bloomsday outfits by dressing up as one of the characters.
6. Host a Bloomsday breakfast
Every year, people celebrate Bloomsday by eating the same breakfast that Bloom has on the morning of June 16. This is made up of the typical ingredients of a traditional Irish breakfast, alongside sliced liver, stuffed roast heart, and grilled mutton kidneys.
If you can stomach it, you could arrange a virtual or in-person masterclass showing attendees how to cook up a literary-themed storm. Put a twist on the recipe to make it more appealing to all kinds of people – for example, with vegetarian options. Perhaps you could come up with a cocktail menu based on the book and show attendees how to mix their own at home.
7. Get crafty
A big part of Bloomsday is dressing up. Why not hold a workshop to show attendees how to craft their own costume? Held either in-person or online, participants could learn how to make and decorate their own straw boater hat to match Blazes Boylan’s. It’s a fun activity that all the family can join in with and requires inexpensive materials that are easy to get hold of. Invite attendees to share photos of their finished hats on social media afterwards using a hashtag.
An alternative celebration
Even though holidays and annual events may look a little different this year, it’s still possible to celebrate. If restrictions are still in place and in-person gatherings are unable to go ahead, then soak up some Bloomsday inspiration and come up with creative ways to bring your unique event ideas to life.
And whether you’re hosting a virtual gathering or in-person event, do it with confidence with our events platform.