Riding high: George the Poet

Riding high: George the Poet

2015 is fast becoming an annus mirabilis for George Mpanga, or George the Poet, as he is now better known. Already a favourite on youtube, George has soared to new heights in his career in the past three months.

His politically and socially motivated work earned him a runner-up spot in the 2015 Brits Critics’ Choice Award. Soon after, George (OE 2002-2009) came fifth in the prestigious and influential BBC Sound of 2015 competition and tenth in MTV’s Brand New for 2015 competition. In each competition, he was competing as a poet against a field that comprised largely musicians: previous winners of the Brits Critics and the BBC awards include Adele and Sam Smith.

His first poetry collection, Search Party, was published in February. George appeared at the Penguin Random House 2015 conference and discussed the book on BBC Radio 2.

His first headline tour, to venues from Glasgow to Brighton, completely sold out, so he has added an extra date, at the London Scala venue at King’s Cross on 14th April.

He was invited on to BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme to discuss the day’s news and has also featured in several broadsheet newspapers since the start of the year.

George’s video for the Prince’s Trust highlighting the emotional problems faced by young people has been published. The video features his poem, Only One You, which was written in response to the Prince’s Trust 2015 Youth Index, which found that one in every ten youths felt so anxious that they were unable to leave the house and more than half worried about everyday situations.

And in February he featured in a BBC Radio 1 documentary. He hit the headlines after calling people who joke about autism “ignorant” in the radio programme. George’s own brother, Kenny, was diagnosed with autism at the age of seven. “It’s not something that should be cured or fixed. It’s a point of difference which should be appreciated and understood. The rest of my brothers and I had to realise that the way we tease each other might not be fair for Kenny,” he added.

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). He was elected Chair of King’s College Student Union.

His early career high spots included winning a £16,000 prize from The Stake competition, sponsored by Barclays and Channel Four. The prize funded a series of poetry workshops called The Jubilee Line (TJL) aimed at empowering underprivileged young people.

George’s work is forceful and uncompromising, turning a spotlight unflinchingly on a society which he sees as intrinsically unjust and tackling issues including marginalisation and dysfunctional family life.

MTV’s head of music, Anna Karatziva, who voted for George in the Sound Of 2015, called him “engaging and mesmerising”.

“No matter what he is talking about, you find yourself clinging to his every word and the venue always erupts when he breaks into song.”

George previously performed as MC Shawalin, before deciding to focus on the spoken word.