‘However strange your experience, other people have had it too’—Virginia Woolf, ‘On Being Ill’
Every year on ‘a Wednesday in mid-June’, the RSL celebrates the work and legacy of Virginia Woolf. On Wednesday 17 June, our first ever virtual Dalloway Day featured online panel discussions, a writing workshop, a book club, an aural walking tour and a BBC broadcast.
Our full-day programme, 97 years after the Wednesday of Clarissa Dalloway’s party, explored the relevance of Woolf’s work in lockdown, and investigates what her words still do to challenge and interrogate attitudes to class, race, mental health and sexuality.
Some of these events are still available to enjoy – click on the links below.
Illustration by Anna Trench.
To purchase our speakers’ books, see our Reading List (or go to Literary Hub’s Reading List if you are in the USA).
Dalloway Day 2020 Programme: Wednesday 17 June
7-9am Write and Shine writing workshop: ‘Everyday Pleasures’
‘Still, life had a way of adding day to day’ —Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway
Led by writer Gemma Seltzer, Write & Shine morning writing workshops and online courses are open to everyone, whether you’re new to writing, have some experience or simply want more creativity into your working day.
This event is at capacity; head to write-and-shine.com for information on their summer courses
There We Stop; There We Stand: Exploring the Black cultural history of London with S. I. Martin – an audio walking tour
‘”I love walking in London”, said Mrs Dalloway. “Really, it’s better than walking in the country.”‘
‘There We Stop; There We Stand’ with S. I. Martin – author, artist and founder 500 Years of Black London walks – is an interactive audio tour of London, from the National Portrait Gallery to Tottenham Court Road, exploring the Black cultural heritage of Clarissa Dalloway’s footsteps, and touching on the lives of those whose portraits hang in the NPG.
‘For it was the middle of June’: British Library’s Dalloway Day blog
‘Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.’—Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
The British Library usually provides the venue for many of our year-round and Dalloway Day events, so to celebrate this year’s online programme they will launch a special Dalloway Day blog. Head to bl.uk and follow @BLEnglish_Drama on Twitter, and in the meantime enjoy their wealth of Virginia Woolf resources.
Literary Hub and RSL book club discussing Mrs Dalloway
Hosted by Literary Hub’s Emily Temple
‘Moments like this are buds on the tree of life.’ —Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway
In The New Yorker this month, Mrs Dalloway is seen as ‘at least in part, a novel devoted to influenza’, it ‘puts Clarissa’s pleasure in traversing the city in a new light. So does reading it in the midst of our own pandemic, which has temporarily dissolved the busy urban scenes Woolf describes so lovingly throughout her book.’
Exploring solitude, PTSD, societal progress, and autonomy and freedom, Mrs Dalloway reflects much of many readers’ lives, and offers a lot for other readers to consider. For our first virtual Dalloway Day, we joined up with Literary Hub, whose managing editor Emily Temple hosted this Zoom-based book group.
The Common Reader in Uncommon Times with authors Sinéad Gleeson and Mona Eltahawy, chaired by Charleston’s Susannah Stevenson
‘A good essay must have this permanent quality about it; it must draw its curtain round us, but it must be a curtain that shuts us in not out’—Virginia Woolf, ‘The Common Reader’
Perhaps as loved as her fiction and letters, Woolf’s essays guide their reader through considerations of equality, the importance of literature, health, and pleasure. Many readers have discovered or re-discovered Woolf’s essays during lockdown, finding in them inspiration and solace in uncertain times. In her essay ‘Street Haunting’ Virginia Woolf noted, ‘we are no longer quite ourselves’, which takes on new meaning almost a century later, when essays still help us make sense of the world around us. Join writers Mona Eltahawy and Sinéad Gleeson in conversation with Charleston’s Susannah Stevenson as they discuss the power of modern essay writing, the potential of the form to progress feminism, and the legacy of Virginia Woolf’s work.
Watch again on Crowdcast.
The Pleasure of the Everyday – presented with Literary Hub, with authors Rowan Hisayo Buchanan and Kate Young, chaired by Literary Hub’s Emily Temple
‘Everything had come to a standstill’ —Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway
Clarissa Dalloway spends a Wednesday in mid-June 1923 wandering through Bloomsbury, buying flowers, and preparing for a dinner party. To many of her contemporaries, this represented a freedom they could only hope for – due to inequalities of class, gender and race.
Join Literary Hub’s managing editor Emily Temple, with authors Rowan Hisayo Buchanan and Kate Young, as they explores the quotidian pleasures we’ve developed appreciation for since lockdown, how literature can support us in these confusing times, and how this experience compares to Clarissa Dalloway’s own cerebral journey.
Watch again on Crowdcast.
‘Queer Bloomsbury’, with authors Paul Mendez and Francesca Wade , chaired by Shahidha Bari
‘Let us admit in the privacy of our own society that these things sometimes happen. Sometimes women do like women.”—Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
Almost the entire body of Virginia Woolf’s writing – her novels, essays and letters –have been interpreted from a variety of queer perspectives, and her work has inspired many modern interpretations across film, dance and theatre.
Joining BBC Radio 3 presenter Shahidha Bari, authors Paul Mendez and Francesca Wade, as they discuss and debate Woolf’s legacy for modern queer writing, as well as lesser-known queer histories of Bloomsbury.
Listen online at BBC Radio 3
Beyond the programme…
Our partner the British Library have looked through their archives for their incredible Virginia Woolf assets, such as an original A Room Of One’s Own from 1929, the notebook draft of Mrs Dalloway from 1923 (Volume II and Volume III), as well as for The Common Reader (1925), her travel and literary notebook from 1906 to 1909, and ‘Hyde Park Gate News’, a magazine by Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell.
Last June, the RSL commissioned a report titled ‘A Room Of My Own: What writers need to work today‘ based on a survey of UK writers, alongside an anthology of new writing from RSL Fellows including Bernardine Evaristo, Val McDermid and Nadifa Mohamed.
Dalloway Day 2019
Our second annual Dalloway Day programme included a book club, a workshop with RSL Fellow Daljit Nagra, a Bloomsbury walking tour with Frances Spalding, and a talk with Alexandra Harris and Professor Dame Gillian Beer (listen here) discussing love and presence in Mrs Dalloway, all leading up to our event with Monica Ali and Elif Shafak, who discussed Woolf’s influence and legacy (listen here).
We also published our report UK Writers Survey A Room of My Own: A Survey of What UK Writers Need to Work, which marked 90 years of A Room of One’s Own by asking what writers need today to work. Read more here.
Dalloway Day 2018
Our first Dalloway Day brought together Virginia Woolf’s biographer Hermione Lee and novelist Alan Hollinghurst about Woolf’s legacy and influence, as well as talk with Elaine Showalter, author of the seminal A Literature of their Own, and Sarah Churchwell, Chair of Public Understanding in the Humanities at the School of Advanced Study, discuss the significance of Mrs Dalloway and its ongoing influence on literary culture. Listen here.