Polar exploration - a black and white issue? Dwayne Fields and Phoebe Smith, known for their solo exploits, have decided to work together to change society’s image of the typical polar explorer and crush stereotypes with each footstep
“For different reasons we feel underrepresented in both the media and society when it comes to showing what an adventurer looks like and where they are from,” explains Phoebe, a travel writer and photographer who was the first person to sleep at all extreme corners of mainland Britain (including the centremost point) on consecutive nights, and last year walked and rough slept across the width of Britain dressed as ‘Wander Woman’ to highlight the problem of youth homelessness, raising over £16k for Centrepoint in the process.
“I was always told black people just didn’t do this kind of thing,” says Dwayne, “that I shouldn’t follow this path because, after all, no one else like me was doing it.” Growing up in east London he fell in with the wrong crowd where he was confronted with gang violence, but he found his escape in the outdoors. Since then has walked to the North Pole and last year, along with Ordnance Survey lead a group of underprivileged young people to the top of Ben Nevis in a ‘Street to Peak’ programme.
Tired of seeing lists of the ‘Top Adventurers in the world’ which don’t represent diversity or acknowledge the need to open up the outdoor for everyone and constantly being courted by media who say they wanted to change the image of adventure but never followed through, they decided that they needed to take action themselves. Setting up #WeTwo they are embarking on a special mission in November 2019.
“We’re going to walk from the colony of Emperor penguins at Berkner Island to the South Pole,” says Dwayne, “a journey of around 1400km. Throughout the expedition we will connect with schools in underprivileged areas so that the children can see what we’re doing, can ask us questions live in Antarctica and see with their own eyes that anyone no matter what their gender, their upbringing or their colour can follow their dreams.”
“’It’s not about planting flags, it’s about planting seeds’ is the #WeTwo motto,” says Phoebe, “and when we get back, in 2020 we will be taking a group of underprivileged young people to the White Continent by expedition ship to create the next generation of ambassadors – for adventure, for wildlife and the environment through our #WeTwo Foundation. It’s our aim that #WeTwo will eventually become #WeToo.”
Adventure Uncovered recently contacted the two adventurers to dive a little deeper into the motivations behind the expedition.
How did this expedition initially come about, where was it born?
Phoebe explained: “We met a couple of years ago at – of all places – Buckingham Palace, where we were both presenting DofE Gold Awards to young people. We got on well and next time we met – at another palace(!), this time Blenheim – we spoke on a panel about getting outside and having adventures and any obstacles we might have faced in doing so. It was fascinating. After that we continued the conversation privately and realised that not only did we have a lot in common in terms of our love for wildlife and nature and inspiring the next generation to fall in love with the outdoors and want to protect it, but also in terms of hitting roadblocks when trying to get into the adventure world. We are both always being told that companies are working to be more diverse, but neither of us could name a female or black adventurer who we had looked up to in school – because simply there weren’t any taught to us. Even now if you ask a child to draw a picture of an adventurer or explorer they would all draw the same image that has persisted for the past 100 years – and that image is not one that fits either of us and is not true – there are loads of people like us doing adventurous things but we just can’t see them.
We are both known for our solo exploits but talking we figured that, by working together, we can get more done and reach more people by showing them that anyone – no matter their gender, background or race – can be an adventurer. And that’s why we felt we needed to do this #WeTwo expedition, to begin to change the face of adventure.
'Anyone – no matter their gender, background or race – can be an adventurer'
AU: What does the foundation aim to achieve?
Phoebe: We’ve set up the #WeTwo Foundation in order to raise funds through our expedition to take a group of underprivileged young people to Antarctica in 2020. We want to engage with young people who never in their wildest dreams thought they would ever see the White Continent. We want to show them that dreams can come true – even when people say that they can’t. We want to plant seeds (not flags) so they think – huh – if they can do it so can we and thereby make #WeTwo become #WeToo.
We also want to use this platform to show them how the world and its environment and wildlife and us are all connected and reliant on each other. We want to make them want to protect it like we do. We’re not interested in getting a first but in passing on our passions to others.
AU: How can ‘adventurers’ and ordinary people with a love for the outdoors help to change the face of adventure, and shift existing stereotypes for good?
Phoebe: What action is required? We have to demand more diversity is shown in every facet of our lives. In school or university ask to be taught about other explorers who you feel represent you rather than the ones we all hear about all the time. Be curious, look for books about lesser-known adventurers and expeditions, do some research – it’s amazing what you’ll find, and shout about the results. Write to the newspapers and the TV channels and tell them that you want to see more diversity. And then – most importantly – get out there yourself, whoever you are and whatever your background. If you want to have an adventure do it – don’t wait for someone to tell you, you can and encourage others to do the same too. And, when people tell you that you can’t for various reasons – you don’t come from the right background or social standing, you’re not strong enough or whatever, like they have done to both of us – do it anyway. Show them through doing that we call can do this.
'If you want to have an adventure do it – don’t wait for someone to tell you'
AU: Why is it important that youngsters and those less privileged in society get into adventure?
Phoebe: It’s important that EVERYONE gets exposed to adventure both privileged and otherwise. But what we see is that those from less privileged areas don’t believe that they can. They don’t see anyone they can relate to out there in the media, they often aren’t encouraged by family or friends, and the benefits the outdoors and adventures (no matter how big or small) can make to peoples lives cannot be underestimated. It gives you confidence in yourself, makes you resilient and resourceful and the more you do it the more that all feeds into your everyday life, allowing you alone to dictate what you do with your life and not letting it be about where you’re from. We also need to ensure that everyone sees the value in our wild spaces and creatures who live there so that they fight to protect them. You’re not going to try to protect something you don’t care about, and the best way to make someone care? Let them be captured by its power and beauty.
Sponsors: The team will leave mid-November and are allowing 60 days for the expedition. They are currently seeking sponsorship to help them change the face of adventure. For more information see www.TeamWeTwo.com
Crowdfund: To live their adventure vicariously, you can help them raise the funds they need here: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/WeTwo