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)

      • IFITAINTOXBRIDGEITAINTWORTHIT

        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

  • Ron

    FemSoc whould be embarrassed that they shouted back, they should have risen above it… Oh and Fuck concrete

  • Oh, god.

    What a jolly load of malarky. Can we just accept that, no, the Football society shouldn’t have been chanting at them, the Feminist society shouldn’t have chanted and engaged back, and the Union is a bloody waste of space and time.

    Oh – and if we ever needed evidence that the Concrete is not in fact an ‘editorially independent’ Union paper, there you go.

  • Hurm.

    What were the ‘misogynistic chants’ they were singing, though? Seems a bit hard to believe they got banned over just ‘Someone Like You’.

  • Sophie

    As someone who was on the bus, “I get more pussy than you” was something ONE person yelled at the Football society, and not something that was chanted. The Football society were the only ones chanting. They were singing that vile “my shaft she got” song that a group of Oxford students got reprimanded for singing on a public bus last year. Considering how little the Football society got punished, I think they should be glad. Had the video gone viral like the Oxford one, I’m certain they would have had a much worse time of it, and rightfully so.

    • Well…

      Why don’t you put the video up online, then? Or hand it over to the Tab or the Concrete? At least that way, everyone can see and judge for themselves just how bad it apparently was, and exactly what the disciplinary committee had to go on here. You say it would have gone viral and proved your case. Well, would it?

      If you’re unhappy with the outcome – considering how bad this video allegedly was – then why not state your side online as well?

  • poo pants

    did the tab’s proofreader go on strike or what

  • Joe Murphy

    They’re both as bad as each other if you ask me. Why?

    Both sets of individuals live lives equally as bleak and desolate. Each seek to affirm and assert their own desperate, fragile and falsely constructed identities in their own pathetic ways, and ‘live’ out their entire existences without ever pausing to ask: “What’s it all for?”

    • Joe Murphy

      Erm, I’m Joe Murphy, so unless you are also named Joe Murphy, what’s the deal here?

      • Joe Murphy

        I’m Spartacus!

        • Joe Murphy

          Banksy? Is that you?

          • Moe Jerphy

            I’m the real Moe Jurphy

  • john donne

    Our Union has a reputation for bungling disciplinary matters – it’s literally like they have never dealt with anything properly before… and thinking about it I can’t find any evidence to suggest they have. They just rattle off suspensions and bans without the proper and necessary hearings, without any considerations to justice or fairness, and without even considering what such actions do to their own reputation. Do they have a standardised set of rules and regulations for matters like this? Who knows…

    As for the feminists, well they might often hold the ideological high ground in debates concerning equal rights etc (quite rightly too, who would disagree with equality?) but many times I have seen them acting rowdy and inappropriately, just like the lads do. I remember last year in Union Council when the ‘fembloc’ would put their feet on the seats, and heckle and shout, even referring to themselves as ‘rowdy feminists’. How is that any different from the behaviour you seek to eliminate? Please consider conducting yourself with a bit of professional decorum, and perhaps you will find more sympathy for your cause*. Although I understand that many of that ‘bloc’ are no longer students, I still find it quite easy to believe that the feminist group was also chanting on the bus, and to me this sounds like a simple case of being able to dish it out but not being able to take it. If they want to change society for the better (and please do, it really needs changing) then please act a bit more maturely and responsibly when doing it! I might be stating the obvious here, but if you’re against packs of people chanting at each other, then perhaps try not to become said chanters yourself…

    tl;dr = be nice plz

    *You may disagree that your actions constituted rowdy or laddish behaviour, but to a non affiliated ‘civilian’ like myself I can assure you that it seemed no worse than the lad culture you want to get rid of. Since when was the appropriate way to eliminate lad culture to simply mirror it in female form? If that’s what you think, then it’s no wonder there was widespread distrust of the feminist society last year. In my opinion (which you’re free to take or leave), if I was part of an ideology which was essentially attempting to make society a nicer place, I’d start by being a nice, friendly person myself.

    • Correct.

      Oh, god, fembloc. Living proof that dyed-pink hair is just the female version of a neckbeard fedora.

      (And yes, that was mean. Good job I’m not actually trying to improve society or participate in a civil debate at the Union here, huh?)

  • David

    Lets face it, the Union is made up of people who have no social lives and thrive on a bit of power. Unfortunately they use it against the very people who make the university a fun place to be!

    Oh and who actually reads concrete?

  • Alex Kibbey

    I would firstly like all to understand that in no way was this article intended to bring back to light an issue that has now been dealt with and put to bed.

    The article and quotes given by myself are purposefully directed toward The Union – If i had my original way there would have been a small follow up article in The Concrete saying exactly what someone has mentioned. I approached The Tab with the intentions of getting our viewpoint about The Union out there so that all can understand the story behind the apology letter that will be published as I was told it would not be possible to have anything other than the apology letter published.

    The Tab told me to outline the events, as I have done so, to give the element regarding The Union some context and some background info.

    To summarise, The Union dealing with this issue is what the club and my problem was which is why we needed to have this information out there in the public eye, not to show the Uni ‘Siding; with us as the name suggests but to allow other students to understand that what goes on within The Union isn’t always correct practice and the The University is impartial and will always offer fair services to those who ask.

  • asd

    You can’t be a feminist in England. ..not really..not a proper one. In the UEA its just a synonym for “miserable cunt”.

  • TomC

    Speaking as a UEA alumni who was involved in several societies.

    The ‘came into the store’ song use to be sung by most societies and sports clubs on socials, regardless of gender of members, in fact normally mixed gender societies. And usually on the number 25 bus on the way to town.

    No complaints in 5 years of being there.

    What has happened to my dear alma mater?!

  • *Miss

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

  • Anna Rhodes

    LOL #topLAD

  • http://wereadrift.blogspot.co.uk/ Sophie

    The union received the videos along with my original report, and the football club were also provided with the videos when the union was making their decision. The Tab only asked us for a summary of events, and did not give us any indication of the scope of the article, or the fact that we would need to defend ourselves to the public.

  • Alex Kibbey

    What I think some people are failing to understand is that the video WAS given to the union and used by them to give their original verdict. We then appealed the decision with The University who then reviewed the video once again and overturned the decision using all the evidence which you can see in one of the above images (the letter).

  • Somebody Else

    Sophie, You should of had the foresight to have given them the video. It’s the Tab, run by non professionals who are students doing this not on the side. They’re not detectives and aren’t here to solve issues. Gotta control your image if you end up being in the press.