On June 16, we celebrate Ulysses. James Joyce devotees have their day every summer, where they celebrate the story that captures the essence of the city of Dublin. It describes the city in such detail that, as Joyce once said, if Dublin were ever to be destroyed, Ulysses could be used to rebuild it, brick by brick.
This Bloomsday, a protest held by actors and artists sought to protect the landmark building which was the setting for another James Joyce famous tale, The Dead. The old house at 15 Usher’s Island was originally owned by James Joyce’s grand-aunts and is now considered a site of international cultural and literary significance, as well as the cultural landscape of Dublin.
Sadly, while there were hopes that the ‘House of the Dead’ would be turned into a cultural shared space, An Bord Pleanála has recently granted permission for the building to be turned into a 54-bed tourist hostel.
Actors involved in today’s protest included Oscar-nominee Stephen Rea, who famously played Leopold Bloom in the 2003 film Bloom, and the voice – by way of a letter – of actress Anjelica Huston. Huston, whose father John Huston was responsible for the 1987 film adaptation The Dead, pointed out in her letter that Dublin is a UNESCO City of Literature, and beseeched the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin TD to preserve a vital part of its literary and cultural heritage.
Huston’s letter was read aloud on the steps of 15 Usher’s Island to be heard by attendees at the protest. Rachael Dowling and Maria Hayden, who played respectively Lily the maid and Miss O’Callaghan in the John Huston film, were also in attendance, as was doyenne of Irish stage and film Marion O’Dwyer, actors and singers Sinead Murphy and Darina Gallagher of ‘Songs of Joyce’, writer and performer Donal O’Kelly (Jimmy Joyced!), performance artist Osaro Azams of ‘Wake the Streets’ based on Finnegans Wake (MOLI), and actors Katie O’Kelly and Madi O’Carroll (Dubliners Women).
The protestors, dressed as the characters of the story, were pictured by attendees with suitcases and forlorn expressions – depicting their ‘eviction’ in order to make way for the hostel.