Planning a future in poetry

Planning a future in poetry

George Mpanga, last year’s Chair of King’s College Student Union at Cambridge, has been forging a strong reputation as a poet with a focus on social and political issues.

With a performance in front of Prince Charles and success in a major national competition already under his belt, George (OE 2002-2009) is now planning a multi-faceted career, taking his poetry to diverse new audiences.

After gaining A grades in English Literature, Sociology and Politics A-levels, George won a place at King’s to read Politics, Psychology and Sociology (PPS).

Earlier this year, 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 the spoken word. He appears at venues across London and his performances of his rap-influenced, politically conscious poems have also gained a significant following on youtube.

Highlights of his career to date have included winning a £16,000 prize from The Stake competition, sponsored by Barclays and Channel Four. The prize is to fund a series of poetry workshops called The Jubilee Line (TJL), which are 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”.

His performance before The Prince of Wales came at the Awards for Excellence, held by the Prince’s charity, Business in the Community. This year, he has also been named one of the UK’s Top Ten Black Students in Rare Recruitment’s Rising Stars awards.

Now nearing the end of his degree, he told Alumni News about his future plans: “After university, I’ll be working in three sectors: education (in the form of my poetry workshops), entertainment (in the music world) and corporate social responsibility.

“The workshops are aimed at using poetry to help students explore the Citizenship syllabus primarily, but the same method can be applied to most writing-based subjects.

“In the entertainment world, I’ll be collaborating with prominent artists and probably release my own music albums on which I’ll perform poetry. It’s uncharted territory, but music has always been my true passion.

“In terms of CSR, I deliver presentations in the corporate sector. These are poems about social issues ranging from sustainable development to youth unemployment. So far my clientele have included Business in the Community, their branch on ethnic diversity, Race For Opportunity, and Citigroup.”

“I also do a bit of writing here and there, which I aim to continue after uni. Thus far I’ve published two articles for the think tank, Runnymede Trust.”