Old Elizabethan George ‘the Poet’ Mpanga was among the commentators turned to by the BBC for an insider’s perspective following the announcement of the royal engagement.
George is an ambassador for Sentebale, one of Prince Harry’s charitable foundations, which supports the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people affected by HIV in Lesotho and Botswana. Having observed the prince’s work there at first hand, he was interviewed for a primetime BBC1 documentary about the engagement, fronted by Kirsty Young.
“I have seen the kids react when Harry is around – they really take to him. Harry seems to have a way with the kids, man!” said George, who stated that the importance of the charity lies in the fact that there is still a stigma surrounding HIV.
Prince Harry’s motivation for being involved was clear, George added. “He cares. It bothers him that some people are just dealt a raw hand, and it’s important for people to know that someone in his position has that empathy.”
George (OE 2002–2009) has a growing national profile as a poet commenting on major issues of the day. Earlier this year, he released a video showing himself reading a poem on hate crime. The video was produced in collaboration with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to coincide with the anniversary of the murder of MP Jo Cox. He also performed in front of the Queen and Prime Minister Theresa May at the Service of Celebration for Commonwealth Day in Westminster Abbey.
During the documentary, George spoke out about the fact that the ethnic background of Meghan Markle has attracted comment in some quarters: “Why should it be controversial that someone is mixed-race? What’s the issue?”
He even had his own tongue-in-cheek assessment of the prince’s fiancée: “I perceive Meghan to be an amazing talent – you know, she’s a catch!”
George was a well-received guest speaker at QE’s Year 12 formal Luncheon, as well as leading a poetry workshop for the whole of Year 9.