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The impact of a royal visit

On October 31st Their Majesties visited a library we support in Nairobi, and The Queen took part in a very special activity. In this blog, our East Africa Representative James reflects on the visit.  

On the day of the visit, the atmosphere in Eastlands Library was a mix of excitement and anxiety. There was a heavy downpour that morning in Nairobi and this brought more anxiety to us. The library had been cleaned thoroughly but outside was full of mud. We had to literally wash our shoes to get in! 

The moment Her Majesty the Queen was handed over to me – it was such a warm feeling as she stretched her hand to greet me. She was very happy to meet us and asked about our work. There was also a very special reading activity with Her Majesty. 12 children read Lion and Mouse by Catalina Echverri to Her Majesty, and they read so well, expertly led by the confident Mary Kinyanjui of the Kenya National Library Service.  

Her Majesty listened intently while following the story on a copy of the book we had given her. She clapped for them when they finished. The highest moment of the event came when she joined Mary to warmly engage with the children.  

Her Majesty’s encouraging words made them feel great and they now appreciate books and reading all the more. This was so special to the children that they were left jumping in excitement. They could not believe that The Queen could engage them at their level.  

Another memorable moment was during the reading session with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and his wife. They both followed the children as they read the book The New Kid by Louise Fitzpatrick. The children read in character in a very animated way and got a round of applause from the Foreign Secretary when they finished.  He urged the children to keep on reading as it could enable them to travel all over the world through reading.  

Now when I reflect on the visit, I think that people will now see the library in a totally new light.

The Eastlands Library is in the Eastlands area of Nairobi. This populous community has unfortunately over the years undergone urban decay occasioned by dilapidated and inadequate housing and old and insufficient infrastructure. For a long time, the Eastlands Library, just like its surroundings, was in a very poor state. It has since been renovated by Book Bunk, a local charity that has partnered with Nairobi City County government that runs the library, and received a donation from us of more than 8,000 books.  

Their Majesties and the Foreign Secretary visited Eastlands Library even though there were so many other better-looking venues they could have gone to. They were happy to be at the library. The visit created so much interest – visitors were busy taking photos of the books on the shelves. The Eastlands Library was all over the news.  

All in all, the visit sent a clear message that books and libraries are very important and people should pay attention to them.  

We would like to thank everyone who made this very special day possible – including the Eastlands Library staff, the Book Bunk team, the British Council, the British High Commission, the Kenya National Library Service and the families who joined us on the day.

But most of all, we thank Their Majesties for taking the time to visit the library, and in particular Her Majesty for her unwavering support of reading around the world. 

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