George The Poet

George (OE 2002–2009) has appeared at major festivals, held a sell-out national tour, featured on a number of TV and radio programmes and had his first poetry collection, Search Party, published. He even enjoyed a truly global audience when he performed at the opening ceremony of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

After gaining A grades in English Literature, Sociology and Politics A-levels, George won a place at King’s College, Cambridge, to read Politics, Psychology and Sociology (PPS), where he went on to become Chair of the college’s student union.

While still an undergraduate, he built a strong reputation as a politically and socially engaged poet, performing at venues across London. His performances of his rap-influenced poems have also gained a significant following on youtube.

In 2012, he spoke to the Harrow Observer about his time at QE, his upbringing on the St Raphael’s housing estate and the inspiration for his poetry: “I always had the aim of academic success and my school was supportive in this way. My main motivation was my parents as we were all brought up in a culture which celebrated academic achievement – and all the negative stuff about the area only encouraged us more. I wanted to move away from all of that, but as I have matured I have realised I don’t want to run away from it, but help to change it – that’s a lifelong battle.”

Widely known as George the Poet, George previously performed as MC Shawalin, before deciding to focus on performance poetry.

Early highlights of his career to date included winning a £16,000 prize from The Stake competition, sponsored by Barclays and Channel Four. The prize was to fund a series of poetry workshops called The Jubilee Line (TJL), to be aimed, he says, “at empowering underprivileged young people with the thinking tools they need to transcend their environment”. In his application to the competition, George set out how the workshops would draw on his own experiences “as a …Cambridge University student of African descent, hailing from a council estate in North-West London”.

He performed before The Prince of Wales at the Awards for Excellence, run by the Prince’s charity, Business in the Community. In 2012, he was also named one of the UK’s Top Ten Black Students in Rare Recruitment’s Rising Stars awards.

2015 saw him rise to national prominence. He took a runner-up place in the Brits Critics’ Choice Award, fifth place in the prestigious BBC Sound of 2015 Award and tenth place in MTV’s Brand New for 2015 competition – in each case competing as a poet against a field that comprised largely musicians.

His media appearances have ranged from being a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme to discuss the day’s news to headlining an episode of BBC Two’s Artsnight programme, in which he explored the meaning of black culture in four spoken-word chapters. He was also the subject of a BBC Radio 1 documentary and of several national newspaper features.

At the 2015 Cheltenham Literature Festival, George headed the poetry strand as a Guest Director and spearheaded the festival’s schools’ poetry competition. In the same year, he also appeared at Glastonbury Festival and at the Edinburgh Book Festival.