andrew burke





Bloomsday Halifax 2024

Posted on: 2024-04-30

My friends at Zuppa Theatre were nice enough to give me a bit of time at their fundraiser last week to make an announcement from the stage, and now I'm doing it on my website:

I've got big plans for this year's Bloomsday, on Sunday June 16.

One of the highlights of my undergraduate English degree was reading James Joyce's "Ulysses". The book takes place in real locations in Dublin Ireland on June 16, 1904, and every year on June 16 people celebrate "Bloomsday" by retracing the steps of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus across the city. It's like St. Patrick's day for literature nerds. Bloomsday isn't limited to Dublin these days, but is celebrated in cities around the world. I enjoyed taking part in Bloomsday festivities in Toronto's Beaches neighbourhood back in the early 2000s.

Halifax has a lot in common with Dublin, including similar 19th-century-British-Empire architecture, many street names, and even a Martello Tower, and it seems like an obvious place to have a Bloomsday celebration. Over the years I've done my own personal celebrations, sharing on social media and occasionally getting a bit of attention, but nothing major happened. In 2018, I set up a webapp for Bloomsday to help me test out some of the technology for This Is Nowhere, but it was a little awkward to use and never got very polished.

This year, partially because my regular work has been a little boring, but also because Bloomsday lands on a Sunday and so more people can take part in it, I'm getting much more serious about Bloomsday. I've taken components and techniques I've used for other Zuppa projects like Labour7 and the Ecology Action Centre's "50 Things" and have built a dedicated Bloomsday Halifax mobile app for iOS and Android. It's not out yet but will be ready soon.

Extremely cheeky app icon for Bloomsday Halifax

The app will guide you to 17 different locations all around the Halifax peninsula, from Point Pleasant Park to the Central Library, from The Old Triangle to the Sands At Salter. When you arrive at each location, you'll unlock a summary of the chapter and excerpts from the text. I'm working to have something special happen at each location as well, some in the real world, and some as extra features in the app. You'll also be able to collect virtual items at each location, such as a bar of soap, a love letter, or the "ineluctable modality of the visible". I've been having a lot of fun getting pictures together for the items, mixing vintage clip art, Dall-E generated elements, and various Pixelmator tricks.

Here's a draft newspaper advertisement, based on a photograph, some manipulated text, and an AI-generated logo:

Here's a Dall-E generated book with a name written on top.

Here's my mash-up take on "omphalos" which Stephen Dedalus elliptically jokes about being like a telephone to one's ancestors, with two different clip art images.

Anyhow, there is no charge for the app or for the event, and you can do as little or as much as you'd like. You certainly don't have to have read "Ulysses" - in fact doing Bloomsday might be a fun introduction to the book, to help you get started with it. You can sign up for the app on the website.

I hope other people will join me in this nerdy celebration. It should be fun!

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