For The First Time – Ireland Says YES to Molly Bloomsday as Annual Ulysses Celebrations Heads North

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YES – Spectacle-led, family friendly, international all-female event honours Joyce’s most famous female character. Taking place at various locations across Derry and Donegal from June 13-16

This year, for the first time, Bloomsday, the annual celebration of James Joyce and his masterpiece Ulysses, will become Molly Bloomsday as it spreads north of the border from Dublin for a spectacular all-women inaugural event in Derry and Donegal. More than 30 female artists and performers from across Europe will converge on Northern Ireland for YES, a new, free, four-day event of female creativity inspired by Joyce’s most famous female character, Molly Bloom.

From 13-16 June 2024, Derry will be alive with dance, music, food, public art, literature, conversation and spectacle, culminating in an epic 18-hour finale transposing the famed Dublin locations of Ulysses to new places north of the Irish border. For details of all events and to book tickets, please visit: www.yesderry.com

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Among the many highlights of YES will be the world premiere of The Molly Films, a new cinematic suite giving a fresh presentation of a literary masterpiece and featuring a cast of some of the UK and Ireland’s finest actors, including Dame Harriet Walter, Fiona Shaw, Adjoa Andoh, Siobhán McSweeney and Eve Hewson. Each actress will take one of the eight mammoth ‘sentences’ which form the closing episode of Ulysses, famously known as Molly's Soliloquy.

Siobhan McSweeney is taking part in The Molly Films, which will premiere at YESSiobhan McSweeney is taking part in The Molly Films, which will premiere at YES
Siobhan McSweeney is taking part in The Molly Films, which will premiere at YES

Each year, on 16 June, the day on which Ulysses is set, ‘Bloomsday’ celebrations take place in Dublin and across the world, with readings, performances and any amount of costumed revellers hailing Joyce and the book’s central character, Leopold Bloom. This year, as 16 June becomes Molly Bloomsday for the first time, artists and audiences will take part in an epic YES finale.

From 8am on Sunday 16 June to 2am on Monday 17 June, an 18-hour cultural Joycean journey across Derry and north Donegal will see Ulysses’ Dublin scenes re-interpreted across the compelling and evocative urban and rural scenery of Ireland’s north-west. Molly Bloomsday will be a glorious reimagining of Bloomsday in the city’s streets, bars, historic Guildhall Square and walls and the beaches and coastline of Donegal.

A freewheeling day of literature, music, food, film, conversation, performance, song and surprises, decorated with folklore, mythology and Irish history, Molly Bloomsday will begin at 8am with breakfast at Donegal’s Iron-Age sun-fort An Grianán of Aileach with a dramatic backdrop of the estuary of Lough Swilly sweeping northwards into the Atlantic Ocean; it will take in the spectacular beach at Lisfannon (known in Irish as ‘Lios Feannáin’), before heading into the city for a packed day and evening of events, culminating in late-night music with Miss Trouli from Athens at the City Taphouse before a final stumble home at 2am the next day. As in the novel, at dawn (4.48am) the final event of Molly Bloomsday will be the global digital release of The Molly Films.

Among the highlights of YES:

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‘No Ordinary Women’ is a mini literary festival all of its own, bringing conversations covering issues affecting us all today. The likes of President Mary Robinson, Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, Orla Guerin, Marion McKeone, Miriam O’Callaghan, Martina Devlin and two ground-breaking female political leaders yet to be announced will be discussing themes of Women & Leadership, Women & Climate Justice, Women & Resistance, Women & Media, Women & Power.

SIRENSCIRCUS will unite audience and artists in a joyous sonic world premiere experience inspired by Ulysses’ Sirens episode through the frame of John Cage’s Musicircus, featuring 200 musicians and participants in Ebrington Square at Derry’s Waterside.

An unprecedented and exhilarating event on Derry’s 17th century walls will bring together eight parading bands from both traditions, all playing and parading and providing an immense city soundtrack.

A highlight of Molly Bloomsday will be O Rocks! a concert of music, conversation and poetry by one of Ireland’s most celebrated artists of recent years, Imelda May.

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The YES Festival is led by female curators Shauna Kelpie (The Sixteen Nations), Martina Devlin (NOW), Tracey Lindsay (designer of The Molly Bed) and Margaret Kelly (Project Manager) and is produced and co-curated by Seán Doran and Liam Browne of ARTS OVER BORDERS, which has developed the ULYSSES European Odyssey with partners across the 18 European cities. Seán Doran said, “In the final episode of Ulysses, Molly's long-and-winding stream of consciousness begins and ends with the word 'yes'. This inspired us to pull Joyce’s Dublin-based story north to Derry~Londonderry, where ‘yes’ is used as a greeting, a colloquial form of 'hello'. While it’s possibly quite an audacious move to take Bloomsday north in such dramatic fashion, it’s not out of keeping with Joyce’s own history. He shifted the nationalities of several of the characters and moved the locations of his own 1914 novella, Giacomo Joyce, from Italy to Ireland, and not all of Ulysses is set in Dublin. YES will be crammed with spectacle. Just over 100 years after the publication of Ulysses, we are excited to be giving Molly Bloom the limelight for once – though we hope this is only the beginning for an annual Molly Bloomsday up North.”

YES is the culmination of the ULYSSES European Odyssey, the largest-ever Ulysses celebration, which began in three of the European cities in which it was written - Trieste, Zürich, Paris - and comes home to both parts of Ireland for the last two episodes.

In mid-1921, as the Government of Ireland Act was dividing the island of Ireland into Republic and Northern, James Joyce was writing the 18th and final episode of Ulysses (Penelope). Joyce was acutely aware of the sober reality taking place in his home country. Particularly revealing in Ulysses’ final episode is Molly Bloom’s pro-Britishness in contrast to Leopold Bloom’s pro-Sinn Fein sympathies. Joyce chose Molly’s fictional birthplace as Gibraltar, a colony. She grew up in a military family, her father being in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, loved the sound of marching bands and her first two lovers were military men.

Ulysses was originally published in serial form in American literary magazine, The Little Review from 1918 to 1921, at which point copies of the magazine were seized and impounded by the Post Office, which refused to distribute them on grounds of obscenity. Further publication of the novel was banned in the US and UK. Ulysses was published as a book for the first time in 1922, by Sylvia Beach, owner of Paris bookshop, Shakespeare and Company.

FESTIVAL INFORMATION

YES dates: 13-16 June 2024 (exhibitions open June 10th). For all information and to book festival tickets please visit: www.yesderry.com