Bloomsday 2020

Bloomsday in Dublin – a celebration of James Joyce’s Ulysses, 2018, courtesy Discover Ireland
Berenice Abbott, JAMES JOYCE 1926 Gelatin silver print Print Date 1935–55, The Museum of Modern Art, New York

RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Ireland’s National Public Service Broadcaster) is set to broadcast an almost 30-hour production of James Joyce’s Ulysses to celebrate the annual Bloomsday festival.

Named after the novel’s protagonist Leopold Bloom, Bloomsday is a celebration of the life of the great Irish writer James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (February, 2 1882-January 13, 1941). The event is observed annually in Dublin and around the world on 16 June, the day his groundbreaking novel Ulysses (published 1922) takes place in 1904.

RTÉ’s fully dramatised production was originally broadcast in 1982 to celebrate the centenary of Joyce. Totalling 29 hours and 45 minutes in duration, it will begin at the same time as both Stephen Dedalus’ and Leopold Bloom’s journey through Dublin begins in the book: 8am on 16 June. Responding to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, RTÉ will mark the occasion with this unique and ambitious broadcast online.

Ulysses will broadcast from 8 am on the 16th of June on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra.

Jim Jennings, Director of Content, RTÉ, said: ‘With the rise in popularity of audiobooks and podcasts at the moment, this is a real cultural treasure from the RTÉ Archives, which we are delighted and extremely proud to make available to audiences globally via our DAB channel and website. If you’ve never felt brave enough before, this is an ideal way to get into Joyce’s masterpiece. Guided by the exquisite performances of the RTÉ Players you will find yourself immersed in this stunning production within minutes. For those who have already read the book or enjoyed the original production in the 1980s, here is an opportunity to re-visit this unequalled moment in world broadcasting.’

The production was recorded by Marcus MacDonald, directed by William Styles, and performed by the RTÉ Players, featuring Pegg Monahan, Patrick Dawson, Ronnie Walsh, Brendan Cauldwell, Colette Procter, Barbara McCaughey, Kate Minogue, Denis Staunton, Laurence Foster, Conor Farrington and Déirdre O’Meara.

James Joyce with Ulysses publisher, Sylvia Beach, courtesy The Irish Times
James Joyce by Jacques-Emile Blanche, oil on canvas, 1935, NPG London

To complement the broadcast, RTÉ has created a permanent website ( that will include 20 ‘explainer’ programmes, ‘Reading Ulysses’, hosted by Gerry O Flaherty and Fritz Senn. This comprises 18 episodes, plus an introductory programme with contributions from Edna O’Brien and Joseph O’Connor, and a programme hosted by Bernard Clarke and featuring Barry McGovern on the music in the book. RTÉ is also including Joycesongs (music from the book performed by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra) and other audio and visual archive material.

Speaking of new writing, follow the blog of the Ambassador of Ireland to the United States of America, Daniel Mulhall & His Excellency’s daily dose of #IrishPoetry on Twitter.

In addition, RTÉ has commissioned a series of short essays focusing on a fundamental activity of James Joyce’s Ulysses – walking. Called Walking Out, in the days approaching Bloomsday a new short essay will be published daily from acclaimed fiction writers and essayists Nuala O’Connor (Wednesday10 June), Joseph O’Connor (Thursday 11 June), Cristín Leach (Friday 12 June), Ian Maleney (Monday15 June) and Mary Costello (16 June, Bloomsday). 

Lastly, don’t miss “Joyce on Film,” the wonderful online presentation by the Irish Film Institute and Bloomsday Festival – a programme of short films from the IFI Irish Film Archive. This collection of films will be available to view for free on the IFI Player and suite of apps from June 12th 2020.

First major Bloomsday with Flann O’Brien, Patrick Kavanagh & co., in Dublin 1954