Speaking up for families like his – George the Poet fronts programme on London’s disappearing council homes

Speaking up for families like his – George the Poet fronts programme on London’s disappearing council homes

George the Poet is enlivening TV screens this autumn with appearances in both the public and private spheres.

George Mpanga (OE 2002–2009), a keen advocate of social justice, investigated how and why the capital’s poor residents are losing out as council homes disappear in the first of this month’s Inside Out London programmes on BBC1. He also stars in a new commercial reflecting on the wonder of Planet Earth and the transitory nature of human life.

The half-hour primetime BBC programme presented by George looked at the effects of the widespread loss of council homes as many London councils redevelop their estates, often forcing residents – “families like mine,” said George – to move out of their communities.

He highlighted the policies behind the problem and spoke to a number of residents affected by it. The programme included interviews with people involved in active resistance to the redevelopments, while also exploring some more community-friendly alternatives.

In his closing remarks, George concluded: “Redevelopment does not have to end this way, with former tenants displaced, neighbourhoods gentrified. Redevelopment can actually empower communities, but for that to happen, we need to ensure this beautiful city does not lock out the very people who make it what it is.”

The programme is available on the BBC iPlayer until 9th October.

In O2’s new advertising campaign, George performs a poem for a TV commercial entitled Breathe It All In which celebrates our existence and the planet we live on.

During the 90-second advertisement, George reflects on both the wonder and the transience of human life: “Life is a miracle. Out of all the planets and all the solar systems, ours was the one to support our whole existence. Ours is abundant in sustenance. Not too close or far from the Sun, just enough distance. Ours are the lungs that can make use of oxygen. Breathe it in and get high on life like an intoxicant. We’re all interconnected, everything that happens, all things that affect it. We’re born alone, but we walk into collectives and every experience falls into perspective when you see that this planet is yours to explore. See, we leave our mark and the people we affect, the memories we make when we speak and we connect, the feelings we share, the secrets we pretend, the strength and the weakness we project. Our time here is like a drop in the ocean. Ups, downs and a lot of emotion, but you’re still here to see the morning. Life’s for the taking. Breathe it all in.”

The background music in the advert is the 2015 track Loud Places by English electronic music producer Jamie xx, with vocals from Romy Madly Croft. An excerpt from another Jamie xx track, Hold Tight, features in the Inside Out London current affairs documentary.

George took up a place at King’s College, Cambridge, to read Politics, Psychology and Sociology after his A-levels. His first poetry collection, Search Party, was published in 2015. He has since gained a high profile, performing: before the Queen in Westminster Abbey on Commonwealth Day; at the opening ceremony of the Rugby World Cup, and to a worldwide television audience as part of the coverage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding earlier this year.