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Celebrating the first ever ‘Molly Bloomsday’ - What is Ireland’s YES Festival?

Celebrating the first ever ‘Molly Bloomsday’ - What is Ireland’s YES Festival?
Celebrating the first ever ‘Molly Bloomsday’ - What is Ireland’s YES Festival? Copyright ulysseseurope.eu
Copyright ulysseseurope.eu
By David Mouriquand
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Ireland’s first all-female festival takes place at various locations across the north west for the next four days. The YES Festival will feature over 40 events and more than 30 female artists from the nations involved in the ULYSSES European Odyssey project.

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The new, all-female, international arts festival inspired by one of the most famous female characters in Irish Literature, Molly Bloom from James Joyce's "Ulysses", is taking place today until the end of the weekend (16 June).  

The YES Festival is the first of its kind in the world, and is the concept of Seán Doran and Liam Browne (DoranBrowne), Artistic Directors of Arts Over Borders. 

It features 32 female artists from 16 countries across the world, coming together to perform in a range of multi-disciplinary and free events across various locations in Derry and North Donegal. 

These events include theatre, dance, visual arts, installations, film, writing, photography, textiles, circus and music. 

Exploring the theme of "The Future: A Female Vision", the YES Festival invites audiences to think about the role of women, not only in Joyce’s work, but more widely the role of women in art, business and politics. 

What is the ULYSSES European Odyssey (UEO) project?

ULYSSES European Odyssey (UEO) is a project from 2022-2024 across 18 cities across Europe, producing artistic responses in public spaces to social and cultural themes identified in the 18 episodes of James Joyce’s "Ulysses". 

The YES Festival is the homecoming and culmination of this three-year international programme, which has seen events in cities including Athens, Berlin, Budapest, Copenhagen, Istanbul, Marseille and Paris.  

This journey marks the centenary of the publication of "Ulysses" in Paris in 1922, and the final day of the YES Festival will be renamed Molly Bloomsday – as the 16 June is traditionally known as Bloomsday, the commemoration and celebration of the life of James Joyce.  

Shauna Kelpie, Artistic Curator at Arts Over Borders, says: “Countless words have been written about Ulysses, very often from the male perspective, so we’re really excited that the YES Festival should be created by women and to see how they interpret Joyce’s masterpiece.” 

Kelpie adds: “Local people and communities as well as visitors will have the chance to connect, share and interact with a diverse range of artforms curated to showcase the exceptional creative talent and distinctive voices of women.” 

Five of the performers taking part in The Molly Films during the four-day festival
Five of the performers taking part in The Molly Films during the four-day festivalulysseseurope.eu

What are the highlights of the YES festival?

No Ordinary Women 

A five-part series of discussions on topics such as Women & Leadership, Women & Power, Women & Resistance Women & Media and Women & Climate Justice.  

Featured speakers include Michelle O’Neill, Emma Little-Pengelly, Shami Chakrabarti, Mary Robinson, Louise Cullen, Aoife Moore and Miriam O’Callaghan. 

The Molly Films 

A World Premiere and a fresh presentation of a literary masterpiece directed by Ukrainian filmmaker Sophie Muzychenko and featuring Dame Harriet Walter, Fiona Shaw, Eve Hewson, Adjoa Andoh and Siobhán McSweeney.  

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Each of the performers reads one of the eight long sentences that form Molly Bloom’s extraordinary stream of consciousness monologue in the Penelope episode of Ulysses. Molly’s soliloquy is set in the dead of night in her bedroom, and begins and ends with the word ‘yes’. 

The Molly Films will also screen worldwide digitally on Monday 17 June. 

The Molly Bed 

A specially commissioned large-scale interactive installation by Derry designer Tracey Lindsay. It includes a headboard as video screen to show the world premiere of the Molly Films on 15 and 16 June, and the massive bed will have a letterbox built into its side for visitors to drop in their own messages and aspirations on the theme of The Future: A Female Vision.  

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O Rocks!  

A closing concert of music, conversation, and poetry by Ireland’s celebrated performer and musician Imelda May. The event celebrates the inaugural Molly Bloomsday.

Click here for more information on the celebration and the events taking place over the next four days.

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