Hip-Hop vs Shakespeare: George the Poet and Howard Jacobson

9 June 2022
In this debate that spans the centuries, Peabody Award-winning spoken word performer George the Poet and Booker Prize-winning author Howard Jacobson go head-to-head over which form of cultural expression best resonates now and forever. Do genres with a mass appeal, such as hip-hop and slam poetry, speak more to society than historical texts that require background knowledge to be fully understood? Or does the lasting appeal of Shakespeare and other great figures from the canon show that some works have a universal value that stands the test of time? Join us for this dynamic conversation, chaired by BBC broadcaster Shahidha Bari, and tune in on 21 July 2022 for the highly anticipated auction of “The First Folio” — the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays.

Meet the Panel

George the Poet, Spoken word performer

George the Poet is a London-born spoken word performer of Ugandan heritage. His innovative brand of musical poetry has won him critical acclaim both as a recording artist and social commentator and seen his work broadcast to billions of people worldwide. In the summer of 2018, he opened the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with his poem The Beauty of Union, and in 2019, his podcast Have You Heard George’s Podcast? won a prestigious Peabody Award and five Gold British Podcast Awards, including the highly-coveted Podcast of the Year. In the years to come he received an NME Award, two Gold ARIAS, three New York Festival Awards and more. The podcast was described by BBC R4 as ‘a story that could change the world’. George recently launched Chapter 3 of the podcast and is now embarking on a PhD.

Howard Jacobson, Novelist and journalist

Howard Jacobson is a British novelist and journalist, celebrated for his comic novels. He was awarded the Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question in 2010 and his novel, J, was shortlisted for the award in 2014. He has written 16 novels and several works of non-fiction, including In the Land of Oz and Roots Schmoots which was made into a critically acclaimed Channel 4 Series, as was Seriously Funny: An Argument for Comedy. Two collections of Finkler’s columns for The Independent covering a 20-year period have been published, and in 2022 he released his memoir Mother’s Boy: A Writer’s Beginnings. He is a regular presenter of Radio 4’s A Point of View and is a passionate advocate for the power of the arts.

Shahidha Bari, Broadcaster and critic

Shahidha Bari is an academic, critic and broadcaster. She is a Professor at the University of the Arts London, a presenter of BBC Radio 3's nightly Free Thinking programme, also known as the Arts and Ideas podcast, and the occasional host of BBC Radio 4's Front Row. She’s the author of Dressed: The Secret Life of Clothes (2019), the winner of The Observer Anthony Burgess Arts Journalism Prize 2016 and has been a judge for the Forward Poetry Prizes and the Baillie Gifford Non-Fiction Prize. She writes for The Guardian, Times Literary Supplement and Frieze magazine.

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