Hastings Celebrates James Joyce’s Ulysses. Lucy Brennan Shiel writes.

Bloomsday is a secret event that is gradually arriving in towns and cities all over the world. Last year it crept quietly up the beach at St. Leonard’s. This year it proclaims itself loudly in Hastings.  Bloomsday is a celebration of the events in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses, set on a single day in Dublin, 16th June 1904.  Ulysses is seen mainly through the eyes of Leopold Bloom, an Irish Jew, his wife Molly and Stephen Dedalus, who is a portrait of Joyce himself at the age of 22.

James Joyce

Last year for Bloomsday in Hastings a few of us gathered on the beach and later at St. Mary-in-the-Castle for readings and life drawing.  Last October, we started fortnightly readings in the café Grand Rue de Péra in Queen’s Road and have now reached the tenth episode. Our next reading is on the 6th June at 7.00pm, when we recap on the first ten episodes and prepare for Bloomsday.

Ulysses takes a very simple idea of a single day and builds an exquisite and extraordinary tapestry which weaves real life people and events, history, myth, classical references, topography, music, theology, psychology and politics into a range of experimental writing techniques from stream of consciousness, internal monologues and buried facts.  Written in 18 Episodes (not chapters) over a period of 7 years– every episode is written in a different style, about a different time of day and a different body part.  Joyce’s inspiration to write a hero’s journey for Leopold (Ulysses) Bloom is Homer’s Odysseus, in his epic heroic journey to return to Ithaca from Troy.

Bloomsday1066 are delighted to collaborate with Hastings Library this year with a focus on episode 9 of Ulysses, where Stephen Dedalus is speaking with the librarians of the National Library in Dublin about Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  Hastings dramatist Michael Punter (Three Kings, Skerryvore) will read from Ulysses, interspersed with Shakespeare’s Hamlet by Emily Carding.  Local librarian Henry Young will be part of the crew together with other familiar faces who are part of the extraordinary in the everyday of Hastings.  If you enjoy dressing up – Edwardian costume, appropriate to 1904, is warmly encouraged.

Episode 1 “A mirror and a razor lay crossed…”


The events in Hastings Library take place between 11.00am and 1.00pm on 16 June including a commemorative photo to include everyone present in the library at 12.30pm. 

Ulysses Reading Circle meets fortnightly at Café Grand Rue de Péra, Queen’s Road Hastings. The Joyce Group is a new Hastings charity celebrating the work of James Joyce through Bloomsday 1066 – an annual event on 16 June that celebrates Ulysses as a book.

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