Bloomsday 2020

Your mind will give back to you exactly what you put into it.

– James Joyce

James Joyce is one of the most famous writers in the world. Born in Dublin and the eldest of 10 children, the young James showed remarkable intelligence, a gift for writing and a passion for literature.

Bloomsday celebrates Thursday 16 June 1904, the day depicted in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. In recent times, this has become a week-long series of festivities with readings, performances, and walking tours in the capital city visiting sites and establishments referenced in the book. The day is named after Leopold Bloom, the central character in Ulysses and follows the life and thoughts of Leopold Bloom and a host of other characters – real and fictional – from early morning to the early hours of the following morning.

Like so many events, this year’s festival has been impacted by Covid-19 restrictions, but there are so many creative and imaginative ways to celebrate this occasion.

Children too can partake in the merriment and commemorate Bloomsday by dressing up in Edwardian-style clothing, listening to music and songs of the times, exploring maps of Dublin, and identifying some landmarks and locations that feature in the book. A special James Joyce resource for children is available on the Bloomsday website and can be accessed here.

Whilst Ulysses is considered one of the great literary works in the English language, other work of James Joyce, “The Cats of Copenhagen” is a treasure for readers of all ages and could provide the basis for some interesting child-centred activities. The Cats of Copenhagen was first written for James Joyce’s only grandson, Stephen James Joyce, and sent in a letter dated September 5, 1936. The art of letter-writing and sending postcards has been resurrected in recent months and children could be encouraged to send a Bloomsday letter to grandparents (or other extended family members). Children could also be asked to recreate some of the images as illustrated by Casey Sorrow in the 2012 publication of “The Cats of Copenhagen” (see an example here).

(As extension activities, children could compose poems and/or short stories about cats or explore other feline-themed books and poetry, such as

  • Macavity: The Mystery Cat by T.S. Eliot
  • The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
  • Gobbolino The Witch’s Cat by Ursula Moray Williams
  • Six Dinner Sid by Inga Moore
  • Atticus Claw by Jennifer Gray
  • Tabby Mc Tat by Julia Donaldson

Older pupils might engage in some project work on Copenhagen and Denmark).