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Bloomsday 2009

All over the world people gather each year to celebrate 16th June 1904 – the day Joyce chose to commemorate in his deathless work Ulysses. And while Ireland in particular is noted for its Bloomsday celebrations, BAFFLE’s take on the proceedings, in Harney’s, Loughrea on Bloomsday itself, was characteristically quirky. James Kennedy, emcee for the night, doubted whether anyone had read Ulysses all the way through, and others claimed to find Joyce overrated. One or two of the evening’s poets (including the aforementioned James Kennedy) made approving reference to Joyce’s first published work, a book of verse entitled Chamber Music – a reference to the sort of music produced by Haydn and Mozart, but also to the music you hear as you tinkle away into the chamber pot.

And yet Joyce had his supporters, too, not least of whom were the debonair Joyce look-alikes in the crowd. I counted four or five poets (one of them Elaine Chmilar, managing to look both louche and alluring) peering through wire-rimmed glasses, and dressed in panama hats, blazers and flannels or an elegant dark suit and a suitably floral tie.

The watchword of the evening was Blooming, a happy marriage between the name Bloom and a floral theme, inspired by the participation of Loughrea’s Tidy Towns committee, who very generously sponsored the prizes. Indeed, their representative Mary Nix presented the prizes at the end of the evening – two for the best fancy dress costumes and one for the best performance. Read on to see who won….

A tremendous number turned out, especially considering it was a rainy Tuesday night, and a very respectable 21 people stood up to read, including a couple of first timers. And new BAFFLE member Sean Og de Paor could have chosen a worst night for his initiation into the mysterious rites that attend each reading.

The organising committee, Siún McDonald, Lucy McCrann and (just to prove your name doesn’t have to begin with Mc to get on that committee) Mary Joyce did a splendid job in getting local musicians Conor Fahy and David Fleming to entertain the crowds and in obtaining the services of James Kennedy.

Harney’s Ignis Harney entered into the spirit of the occasion with a flower in his hat and a habit of ringing an airport-style call signal whenever a new recruit stepped up to the microphone, while Myra looked on with a kind but vigilant eye.

The McDonald family contributed greatly to the evening, with Ian looking like a flaneur and Siún dressed in a rose-strewn dress embroidered by her own fair hands with the word ‘Blooms’ on the front and ‘Day’ on the back! And to complete the hat-trick, son Christopher treated us all to a tuneful rendition of Nora, an old song we dedicated to Nora Barnacle, the woman, who, as Joe Kelly memorably put it, ‘made a man’ out of Joyce.

The McDonalds won second prize in the Best Costume section, and rightly so, although first prize went to Finuala McNally, resplendent in a floral dress and a towering creation on top of her head, which some might call a hat but left many of us wondering what it was. Feathers and feet, flowers and fur all seemed to be part of it. Elton John would have been proud to flaunt it.

At the end of the night, a guest member from over the water (Boston, to be exact) Karin Joyce whose mother came from Kilchreest, very generously presented the committee with a trophy modelled on Al Turnip’s American cousin. His resemblance to our own resident critic, Al Turnip, was immediately striking to everyone.

AND, the news you’ve all been waiting for. Who got the last award? Well, the prize for best performance went to Mary-Ida Kelly for her reading of a short piece entitled ‘The Shawlie’ by BAFFLE favourite Vinny Caprani. And so ended another terrific BAFFLE night.


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