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Love to Read? Let's Party! Bloomsday brings dramatic readings, dancing, live music & more to The Arts Block

  • Photo by Peter Chilton<br/>This picture was taken during last year's Bloomsday.

    Photo by Peter Chilton
    This picture was taken during last year's Bloomsday.

  • Photo by Peter Chilton<br/>This picture was taken during last year's Bloomsday.

    Photo by Peter Chilton
    This picture was taken during last year's Bloomsday.

  • Photo by Peter Chilton<br/>This picture was taken during last year's Bloomsday.

    Photo by Peter Chilton
    This picture was taken during last year's Bloomsday.

  • Photo by Peter Chilton<br/>This picture was taken during last year's Bloomsday.

    Photo by Peter Chilton
    This picture was taken during last year's Bloomsday.

  • Photo by Peter Chilton<br/>This picture was taken during last year's Bloomsday.
  • Photo by Peter Chilton<br/>This picture was taken during last year's Bloomsday.
  • Photo by Peter Chilton<br/>This picture was taken during last year's Bloomsday.
  • Photo by Peter Chilton<br/>This picture was taken during last year's Bloomsday.

On Monday, June 16, Greenfield revelers and literature enthusiasts will don bowler hats, caps and shawls. Gorgonzola sandwiches and red wine will be served alongside pints of beer. And the lilting voices of local actors will be heard reading passages from the classic novel “Ulysses” by Irish author James Joyce.

All this and more comes to the Arts Block in Greenfield when the Literacy Project celebrates Bloomsday from 7 to 9:30 p.m. This will mark the fourth year the nonprofit commemorates Joyce while also raising awareness about its mission to provide free adult learning services to residents of Franklin, Hampshire and western Worcester counties.

For years, hundreds of thousands of people have turned out across the globe on June 16 to read from copies of the 1,000-page novel, which is one of the most challenging books in the English language. Revelers hold readings, theater events, pub crawls and other events to commemorate the special date of June 16, 1904, known as Bloomsday.

Bloomsday relives the events that unfold in “Ulysses,” which documents a fictitious day in the life of Leopold Bloom, the protagonist, as he traverses through Dublin. Bloomsday can involve a range of cultural activities, including Ulysses readings, dramatizations and pub crawls. Hardcore enthusiasts often dress in Edwardian fashion and hold marathon readings of the entire novel.

In Greenfield, the Literacy Project will host a pub-style Bloomsday with readings from parts of the novel. There will also be Gorgonzola sandwiches and red wine (Bloom’s favorite meal), photo opportunities with a bust of Joyce himself, singing, dancing, stories and decidedly Irish pints of beer.

The Literacy Project provides basic reading skills, high school equivalency exam preparation and helps people prepare for college and work through classes and online learning.

The idea of having a Bloomsday celebration in Greenfield started four years ago when a Literacy Project teacher used “Ulysses” to help teach his students how to read. “I was so impressed. It was phenomenal because it is so difficult to read,” said Judith Roberts, executive director of the Literacy Project.

As students researched the novel’s excerpts, they learned of the worldwide celebration honoring James Joyce.

The first event was at the People’s Pint but it has since grown out of that space. It now features many local artists and combines theater, literary review and entertainment.

This year’s festival will have lively Irish music by Rosie Caine and the Wilde Irish Women, who will play and sing original music based on the true story of James Joyce and his lady loves. Local musicians Diane Sanabria and Doug Feeney are reuniting to bring jigs, reels and waltzes to life on banjo and guitar.

Local actress Marina Goldman will star as Molly Bloom, Leopold’s wife.

The Celtic Heels Irish Dancers will perform and the Greenfield Improv Group will riff on Joyce’s writing.

Greenfield’s Bloomsday is for students and community members alike.

“We want to bring attention to the work we’re doing,” Roberts said. “We’re trying to connect highly literate people in the valley with the mission of the Literacy Project.

The Literacy Project educates about 400 students annually at its locations in Greenfield, Northampton, Amherst, Orange and Ware.

“At The Literacy Project, we believe in the power of words and books to transform lives,” Roberts said. “We believe that everyone should have access to the joy of reading. Most of our students do already know how to read; they just can’t read well enough to fill out a job application, write an essay or enjoy a novel. Whatever their skill level, we work with them until they’ve mastered the basics and are ready to move forward. Our students are moving from literacy to literature and we are celebrating Bloomsday and the connection of emerging readers with the highly literate.”

Although a difficult read, Roberts said Bloomsday is for everyone, including those that haven’t read the book.

“The novel itself is pretty arcane, but this festival is very accessible and entertaining to anyone,” Roberts said. “We invite folks to come in and join the fun. You don’t have to read the book to understand it and have fun.”

There is no cover charge. Donations to The Literacy Project are encouraged.

Staff reporter Kathleen McKiernan has worked at The Recorder since 2012. She covers Deerfield, Conway, Sunderland and Whately. She can be reached at kmckiernan@recorder.com, 413-772-0261, ext. 268 or @RecorderKatMcK

To learn more about photographer Peter Chilton of Greenfield, check out his website at http://peterchilton.com/

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