Mick Henry at a former Oxford Bloomsday with Tom Paulin, Sir John Pethica, Gerald Garcia and Bernard O’ Donoghue

Bloomsday, is one of the most famous single days in literature. June 16 is celebrated all over the world to remember the life of Irish writer James Joyce, and has been commemorated in Oxford for 40 years.

And while this isn’t the 40th anniversary its Oxford organisers expected, they are determined to continue with the tradition of providing a day of Irish music and literature, albeit virtually.

“In such difficult times, it’s heart-warming to see such talented and creative people gather together and reach into people’s homes, to celebrate Irish culture, bring a smile to peoples faces and maybe even a jig around the kitchen.

Oxford’s contribution was introduced by Michael Henry, reflecting his own expertise as an outstanding singer with a vast repertoire and knowledge of Irish songs.

Mick Henry

The gathering is usually held upstairs at Oxford’s Port Mahon, but his year, due to the lockdown, it will be streamed virtually in the medium of a film screening, with dedicated online contributions recorded by writers Terry Eagleton, Tom Paulin, Iggy McGovern, Keith Hopper and Bernard O’Donoghue, and by musicians Gerald Garcia, Nick Hooper and others, with contributions from Ireland.

Mick Henry, 80, was born in Tooreen in the West of Ireland, came to England when he was 17, and made a home in Oxford in his early 20s. He says “The Joyce night has been celebrated in Oxford for 40 years, and although this wasn’t the 40th anniversary we expected, by showing it on the internet we hope many people can enjoy what we have been enjoying doing for so long.”

“We think it appropriate to acknowledge Mick Henry’s importance to Irish cultural life in Oxford at this extraordinary juncture this year.”

Autumn Neagle said. “The performers jumped at the chance to contribute with readings or music, and it’s been quite a  family affair with Mick’s sons and daughters getting behind it, working hard to get in touch with the artists and overcome these challenges.

“Everyone has really come together to make it happen, from Oxford and even over in Ireland – including the Irish Ambassador, Adrian O’Neill, who has sent a message of support!

“In such difficult times for all, it’s heart-warming to see such talented and creative people gather together and reach into people’s homes to celebrate Irish culture, bring a smile to peoples faces and maybe even a jig around the kitchen.

“So tune in, come for the Craic and stay for an evening of music, poetry and song – and don’t forget to raise a glass!”

Poet and performer Bernard O’Donoghue said: “Apart from the Bloomsday events, Mick Henry has been the main organizer of Irish cultural events in Oxford for more than 40 years bringing a major galaxy of Irish stars to the city: from poets Paul Muldoon, Paul Durcan, Michael Longley, Medbh McGuckian and Eavan Boland, to musicians Christy Moore, Dolores Keane, Jackie Daly, Kevin Burke, Arty, Nollaig Casey and Maire Ni Chathasaigh.

“This is a long list, but there is no doubt that few of those would have come to Oxford without Mick Henry’s initiative. We think it would be appropriate to acknowledge his importance to Irish cultural life in Oxford at this extraordinary juncture this year.”

Nick Hooper

Adrian O’Neill, Irish Ambassador to the UK, said: “I am delighted to extend my best wishes to Oxford’s Bloomsday celebration on this especially auspicious occasion, which marks the 40th anniversary of the event. It is also Oxford Bloomsday’s first celebration in this new, socially distant but virtually connected space. While different in character, I have no doubt it will be equally impactful.  

Anna Henry, Mick Henry’s daughter added: “We hope everyone enjoys this year’s event – as it holds such great memories for us, so we look forward to welcoming the people of Oxford and beyond on the 16th!”

Go to: www.OxfordBloomsday.Live/2020

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