Canadian poet collaborates on musical about Air India

A Canadian poet who lost family in the Air India disaster is collaborating with Irish artists on a new musical to mark the 30th anniversary of the terrorist bombing.

Award-winning Vancouver-based Renée Sarojini Saklikar was aged 23 when she lost her aunt Zebunnisa and uncle Umar in the bombing of Flight 182.

Despite a massive search and recovery operation, her uncle’s body was never recovered. They were among 329 who died with the Air India flight was blown from the skies off the south west coast of Ireland on June 23, 1985.

“My family will never forget the support and care shown to us and all the families, by the people of Ireland, particularly in West Cork,” she said.

She and her parents avoided talking about it for years afterwards. But following the sudden death of her husband in 2002, she began writing about the disaster and, in 2013, published a collection of documentary-style poems, Children of Air India, which painted a devastating portrait of the people whose lives were forever altered by the bombing.

It won the 2014 Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry.

Now, poems from that collection are featured in a new theatre project, air india [redacted] — a collaboration with Cork-born-theatre and opera director Tom Creed, and with composer Jurgen Simpson and visual artist John Galvin, both from Limerick — which will be premiered in Vancouver tomorrow night.

Using a blend of theatre, voice, poetry and visual projections, the show will transport the audience to selected moments before, during, and after the bombing.

Ultimately, the show hopes to shine a “glimmer of light” on the injustices of the protracted judicial process, which became the most expensive trial in Canadian history, costing nearly €90m, and ended in 2005 with acquittals.

Mr Creed said Renée’s poetry “unlocks a kind of anger”.

“When you read the words on the page there’s a ferocity to it,” he said.

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