Meet the Haymaker – Wanjiru Koinange

Our monthly 'Meet the Haymaker' series shares stories of the change-makers at the heart of Hay Festival Global and the impact it has had on their lives. This month, get to know Wanjiru Koinange, writer, restorer of libraries and entrepreneur from Nairobi, Kenya, who co-produced NBO Litfest 2024 with us.

What does Hay Festival Global mean to you?

Hay Festival Global is a reminder that spaces exist where literary works can be centred and celebrated and used as a lens of discussion of greater issues facing our time across the world, which is a beautiful thing. As the director of NBO Litfest, it means that we have an opportunity to collaborate with an institution that has, for many years, been thinking about what it means to convene people, and that we can collaborate, share and learn from one another to be better at our shared goal.

What’s your favourite Festival memory?

My favourite memory is being in the Green Room or the Artist’s Room backstage at events, which felt like someone’s living room. They are spaces where we could interact with the writers who we’ve been reading and learning from for such a long time, but also see the makers of all of this magic take in the full experience of the festival. I also really enjoyed the family garden at Hay Festival Hay-on-Wye 2024, which was a great hit with my nephew.

Have you ever changed your mind on something having been to a Hay Festival event?

Absolutely! I previously thought I was someone who exposed herself to a lot of different and diverse perspectives, but when I attended Hay Festival Cartagena, Colombia, I found myself disagreeing with some of the conversations in a way that I hadn’t for a long time. It was a reminder that you need to constantly expose yourself to different perspectives, to encourage growth.

Who was the best speaker or performer you saw on a Hay Festival stage?

Oh my! There are so many. David Olusoga, Adania Shibli, Punkatt Mishra, Lola Shoneyin, off the top of my head. I know there’s a lot more.

What advice do you have for a first-timer at the Festival?

My advice is to wear comfortable shoes, and to give yourself time in between sessions to process what you’ve heard. The festival does a fantastic job of facilitating such rich conversations, and a lot of times you just need some quiet time to process that.

Sum up Hay Festival Global in five words or less:

Vast. Precise. Considerate. Consistent. Magical.