Interview: George the Poet

Talented wordsmith and Cambridge finalist George the Poet sits down to talk to Rebecca Diamond about his poetry, his politics and life at Cambridge.

George Mpanga, aka George the Poet, is a man who knows exactly what he’s talking about. Born in North-West London, George’s intelligence and gift for lucid lyricism has propelled him to the very top of the urban spoken word scene. His politically conscious poems have recently brought him to the attention of the likes of Channel 4 and the Royal Albert Hall, and I meet with him to shed some light upon his influences and motivations.

So, what is it about poetry that you connect with over other spoken word forms?

“I think that spoken word allows you to remove a lot of gimmickry like that of musicality, because the focus of music is often in making people dance. There’s something really innocent about just talking, which helps you to get to the crux of what you’re feeling. In the world of say rap, from which I started out from, there can be other focuses than just speaking. My first focus was communicating ideas, but in music you have to consider other things like instrumentality.”

I ask him what it is he wants people to take away from his poetry most – is it to make us think, or act?

“I think thought produces action. You can never separate the two. I hope that upon reflecting upon what I say, people will take it upon themselves to re-evaluate the things they do.”

And what it is that you want people to re-evaluate the most?

“The overarching thing is we tend to focus on our differences rather than our similarities. It’s largely a result of there not being sufficient dialogue between communities, it’s not just a racial or class thing. In terms of profession, you’ll often find that teachers are saying something radically different from that of police for instance. I want to change the approach to inter-communal dialogue. We all share the same space and we need to start to recognise that communication is necessary.”

If you could say one of your poems to someone and start that dialogue rolling, what would you pick?

“In my community there’s a big issue of fatherlessness, and I have poems that outline this. I’d choose any one of them and try to give some perspective. A lot of the time fatherlessness comes about through a string of isolated, short term, short sighted decisions, not necessarily a lack of care about kids. I would like to warn people – it’s something that happens through a lack of awareness.”

And this is something the government is not addressing?

“Yes, A lot of government policies are premised on the assumption that people are well equipped to deal with whatever life throws at them. It’s not helpful that poorer communities are having their resources cut back. Indirectly, what inevitably happens is that everyone in that community gets more selfish. That’s what happens when you take everything away, or the little what they have. It just transpires that there’s a clash of priorities between two people who might be having a child for example. One person thinks it might be not be financially viable to fund the situation.”

He muses on the subject of disconnected policy makers – those who make ‘isolated, short term decisions’ that hinder the kind of dialogue between communities that he’d like to see taking place. I wonder how entering The Stake’ competition has helped him to pursue his poetic objective. George was one of the lucky winners of the online social enterprise competition organised by Channel 4 and Barclays Bank, and he was given £16,000 to set up spoken word workshops in secondary schools across London.

“Delivering the workshops was the easy bit… it was the paperwork, the bureaucracy that I hadn’t thought about completely. It taught me lessons about organisation and actually running a business that I thought I’d get more help with.”

And the students?

“The students were the best things about it. The interesting thing is that they were supposed to be difficult students – kids who had been kicked out of school. But they were so ready – they were just waiting to be connected with in a way that’s not patronising. I think I made the medium of spoken word palatable because I was from a world that they connected to and I could encourage them and make them feel that what they had to say was valid.”

He tells me that the workshops are still happening… in fact he’s got a few calls to make after. Juggling live performances, delivering classes and a Cambridge degree is no ordinary feat, and so I wonder if his experience here has helped to develop his work in any way.

“Yeah definitely, I’m growing here. You can’t avoid it. Before I lived in a kind of different world. When you’re younger there are safety nets around you that you don’t have to question – you can question and challenge what you’re presented if you’re encouraged to, or if you’re so inclined, but Cambridge really pushed me to ask questions that I hadn’t done so before, and go completely out at sea with ideas that I was developing in my head.”

I ask him about the spoken word scene here in Cambridge. Is there much happening?

“I’ve seen a couple… I haven’t really been involved in the Cambridge scene as I come from the urban music world and I used to have a heavy prominence on that circuit, so now more people have reached out to me from there.”

So, where do you see your work developing from here?

“I want to go cross-platform. I want to really grow in the world of commercial music. I’m even toying with the idea of theatre. When I put on a show in a room in the Royal Albert Hall, people told me that there were similarities with what Shakespeare used to do – a whole show constructed out of poetry.”

After telling me grinningly that he’s already in talks with some people.. (“I can’t say who”), he says that he’s got a new album coming out, one that will incorporate different producers and play with different sounds.

“I’m in a position now with my poetry that I can use whatever I can to enhance it.”

Closing the interview, I have no doubt in my mind that George will go on to enhance his art and share his message – and I wish him all the best of luck for it.

  • YOLO

    Interesting interview

  • MC Shawalin

    has got a ting for Sam’s Chicken!

    • Obviously

      dedicated like Moses

  • May ball ents

    that video is incredible – i want to meet this guy

    • King’s Affair

      way ahead of you

  • Fellow NW10er

    What a hero.

  • Wow

    This is incredible

  • More

    of this please, Tab!

  • anon

    lemme rap battle you

    • supa hot fire

      supa hot goes first.

  • George

    The G is silent!

  • this guy

    is such a g. big up all da qe boys mandem #represent. george makes me want to be on a dench man ting and do something with my life but who can compete

  • Carlton Banks

    This guy is Fresh Prince, he’s Will Smith to the hood damn! In otherwise, this guy’s basically a G haha

  • Kendog

    Why isn’t Adam Ahmet from uea on here?

  • Do you lift broseph

    Interesting that nearly every single one is at a shockingly bad university….more time studying and maybe less time lifting would have put you all in better stead!

    • Winston

      How are Leeds, Bristol, Birmingham, Leicester, Sheffield, Loughborough shockingly bad Universities? Did you graduate in 1901? Do you need to read a recent copy of a ‘good university guide’ ?

      • you’re an idiot at a poly

        Leicester, sheffield, loughborough, birmingham are all weak…sorry to break it to you bro.

        • Winston is a knob

          also that guy said ‘nearly ever single one’ which is accurate with shitloads being from hellholes like plymouth…so go back to reading school asshole.

          • Winston

            Using information from the good university guide and including the top 30 institutions, I can gather that FOUR of the MALES and 8 of the GIRLS go to ‘bad unis’ . So it’s really not ‘nearly every single one’, it’s 12 out of the 38 candidates, which is less than half. Please go back to counting school ;)

        • Do your research

          Loughborough, Leicester and Birmingham are all higher on the league tables than Manchester actually. And Sheffield is only one place below… sorry to break it to you bro.

          • Winston

            Since when have top 20 Universities been regarded as weak?

      • Don

        Its pretty obvious that bad unis would have more time to life and as far as I know Leeds, Birmingham and Leicester are pretty bad (only the retards of my school went there)


        their poo

        • Cheeky Alumnus

          Whose poo? Ain’t worth going to Oxbridge if you can’t spell…

    • ??????

      Ever considered that some of them might be after a physical rather than academic career?

      • ???????

        ever considered that a physical career often leads to nowhere?

      • Get a Grip

        why go to university then???????

  • Cheeky Alumnus

    This made me cringe more than Russian online dating pictures.

  • Breathe in for insta-abs

    I spy a nipple bar Tardof….

  • Winston Churchill

    God help us all

  • ray

    many guys at edi uni that could be here

  • Josh “The Lifter” Leader

    What a bunch of choppers. Bu big Leeds dick could lift more than these cretins put together

  • wanker

    “Interesting personal fact: I ripped my shirt (button down with tie on) at the dodgeball Christmas meal last year because I said I could and my mate said I couldn’t. I did it, totally worth it. Also at this same event there was a secret santa, I got given gold hotpants. I wore then them to the next practice without a shirt.”

    What an absolute top cunt.

  • The Observant Man

    the future of humanity is doomed at this rate

  • Franco

    Education is important but big biceps are importanter.

  • Ping 22

    the pictures of the guys with veins bursting out make me feel ill

  • Ally

    All the guys here are clearly on roids so what is even the point when none of them have an honest rig?

  • fuck

    DYEL manlets at shit unis

  • Shack Tomleton

    utter shit

  • Jo

    7. Use one of the hundreds of PCs not in the library.

  • .

    “a snapback and nike trackies do not count as formalwear boys.” This is sexist and patronising. A boy should be able to wear whichever clothes he feels comfortable in and shouldn’t choose his clothes based on whether Anna Rhodes thinks he looks good in them. And there’s a missing comma in that sentence.

    • Anna Rhodes

      This may come as a shock to you, but just because I say I do not like something it does not mean that you cannot wear it: the concept of free will denotes this.

      I am not going to shoot you at dawn for adorning grey trackies, so you can leave the sexism comments at home because they’re incorrectly used. I would say the same about a girl in a heartbeat.

      Wear what you please, because you’re an independent human being who can do whatever you want and I am not omnipresent.
      Thanks for the grammar correction though, much appreciated.

  • jenni

    8. stay at home

  • *Miss

    I think the only explaination is that some of them are widows…

  • Anna Rhodes

    LOL #topLAD