George the Poet’s game-changing approach sweeps the board at the British Podcast Awards

George the Poet’s game-changing approach sweeps the board at the British Podcast Awards

Old Elizabethan George Mpanga has achieved unprecedented success – including winning the main Podcast of the Year title – in the British Podcast Awards.

George the Poet’s eight-part podcast, entitled Have you heard George’s podcast?, creatively combines music, drama, news and poetry. It won a record four golds alongside the main prize, as well as two silvers.

There was reward, too, for another QE alumnus, Bilal Harry Khan (OE 2003–2010). Over the Bridge, a podcast Bilal makes with three black and mixed-race friends he met while studying at Cambridge, won bronze in the Acast Moment of the Year category. Bilal took the time to congratulate his fellow Elizabethan, George, on his success via Twitter.

In his acceptance speech at the ceremony attended by celebrities including Fearne Cotton and Michael Sheen, George (OE 2002–2009) said the podcast was “something I was itching for for a long time when I was in the music industry, prior to that when I was just in the streets, just a rapper, and I knew that there was so much wrong that needed to be unpacked”.

He paid tribute to his parents, who were in the audience, as well as thanking others, including his community and his ancestors.

Speaking afterwards, George told the BBC that he first established the podcast because he “wanted to give young people a way to rethink their situation, especially if they’re in the inner city like I was”.

The judges’ citation for the Audioboom Podcast of the Year prize stated: “This podcast showed a level of creativity and craft that was impressive. Alongside it, the entry displayed well-thought-through story-telling which ensured a compelling listen. George the Poet has succeeded in challenging the notion of what can be achieved through podcasting.”

George also won gold in the following categories:

  • Best Arts & Culture: “This is a podcast that deserves your time. It felt a little like a piece of art itself – pushing the boundaries of podcast production,” the judges wrote.
  • Best Fiction: “The judges felt that Have You Heart George’s Podcast? exceeded all our expectations. It is an engrossing podcast: fresh, original, surprising, moving, well-written with breathtakingly beautiful sound design and mesmerising performances. An outstanding and worthy winner.”
  • Best New Podcast: “The judges were impressed with this exceptional, unusual podcast’s bravery and invention. This podcast is unlike anything else out there. It moves between fiction, fact, poetry and reportage to create a new and unforgettable listening experience.”
  • Smartest Podcast: “This podcast captures a unique and powerful voice and views which are so often missing from mainstream media. Using arresting poetry to tackle big issues head on, each episode is a rich and mesmerising performance.”

The silvers were in the Acast Moment of the Year and Best Current Affairs categories.

Among the topics covered in George’s series were the Grenfell Tower fire, the 2011 London riots, whether music causes crime and the glamorisation of violence.

In her report on the awards for the Guardian, Miranda Sawyer highlighted not only that George eschewed the predictable and included some surprising ‘takes’, but also praised the podcast’s use of music (“treated with the respect it deserves”) and the “properly high quality” sound design, complete with “muffled phone chat, voice-note pings, computer key taps moving in and around the voices”.