"When they heard Joyce's words... they were transported" - David Norris on Bloomsday

James Joyce fans around the world are celebrating the author's work today

"When they heard Joyce's words... they were transported" - David Norris on Bloomsday

David Norris enjoys the performance at the Bloomsday Breakfast. Photograph: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie

James Joyce fans in Dublin and around the world are celebrating Bloomsday today.

In Dublin, the day kicked off with the traditional Bloomsday breakfast in Kennedy’s pub on Westland Row, with the James Joyce Centre also hosting a breakfast (pork kidneys optional).

The pub is one of a number of landmarks mentioned in James Joyce's literary classic Ulysses.

Today's events also include afternoon tea, readings, and a Bloomsday Bus sightseeing tour.

The first recorded Bloomsday event took place in 1954 - 50 years after the day recorded in Joyce's novel - when writers Patrick Kavanagh and Flann O’Brien (along with a number of other Joyce fans) visited a number of sites mentioned in the book. 

James Joyce acted by John Shelvin on North Great Georges Street in Dublin this morning celebrating the annual Bloomsday at the James Joyce Center. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Senator David Norris is one of the most high-profile supporters of the now annual festival, and he spoke to Jonathan Healy on The Pat Kenny Show about his fondness for June 16th.

He recalled: "I was just thinking, the first time Bloomsday was celebrated was in 1954. Anthony Cronin [...] John Ryan, and Paddy Kavanagh got a hansom cab, and did a rather beery traversing of the Joyceian route.

"There was ten years nothing happened. In about 1964, I started off reciting bits from the book in the places where they took place. Everybody thought I was mad, but I used to get crowds."

Senator Norris said it took some time to convince officials of the appeal of a day celebrating Joyce.

He told Jonathan: "I said 'if you handle this right, you could have something as big as Mardi Gras in New Orleans'. And they laughed. But it really took off, and it's taken off internationally now. I'm sorry I didn't patent it.

"The idea was here was another Dublin eccentric that was going to entertain them. When they heard the language, when they heard Joyce's words... they were transported. It was absolutely magic. The crowds just grew."

For Senator Norris, Bloomsday is one way of making Joyce's famously dense text more approachable, especially given the elitism that sometimes surrounds discussion of the work.

"Some of [the scholars] have acted like archbishops in religion," he suggested. "They think 'we know the doctrine, and you keep out'.

"But there's some great [scholars], like the late Richard Ellmann, whose biography [of Joyce] is so wonderfully engaging."