Viewpoint: Explorer Dwayne Fields on black youths in countryside

Dwayne Fields: "I hardly ever see young people in the countryside, let alone black people"

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Londoner Dwayne Fields, 29, who has walked to the north pole and plans to venture to the south pole in a few weeks, tells the BBC how he hopes his fame could encourage other black people to do their own exploring by getting out of the cities into the British countryside, and appealed for government cash to encourage this.

I became the first black British man, and the second black man in the world, to reach the north pole. Now I have my sights set on the south pole. Not bad for a black man from Hackney in east London?

I want to help inner-city teenagers realise that they can do something too. For me the key to unlocking their potential is to encourage them into the countryside.

Start Quote

One night someone pulled a gun on me and fired twice, I wasn't hit. It was over a simple fight and shouldn't have got that far”

End Quote Dwayne Fields Polar explorer

This means we need to start funding more youth groups and other organisations like the sea and army cadets. This is not the time for cuts.

Rapper or musician

When I'm out training in the wilderness I see no young people and I've never actually seen a black person in the countryside.

Now I'm not arguing that every inner-city teenager needs to head to the North Pole but I want to show them that their choices in life aren't just being a rapper or a musician.

I want them to get out into the countryside as it's a way of opening up their worlds. They feel the countryside isn't for them but that's because they don't see it.

I was born in Jamaica. I absolutely loved it. I would run around the forest all day and no one would see me for hours.

When I came to London I had a small concrete backyard and it felt crowded. School was tedious and painful.

My experience of the outdoors was limited to the odd school weekend camping trip. We hardly ever saw that a different way of life existed.

I lived in a difficult part of London. One night someone pulled a gun on me and fired twice, I wasn't hit. It was over a simple fight and shouldn't have got that far.

DWAYNE FIELDS

Dwyane Fields
  • Born in Jamaica, but grew up in London from the age of six
  • Second black man to reach the north pole, and the first this century
  • In November, he starts a 58-day, 1,150km trek to the south pole
  • Studying a combined honours degree in Psychology and Third World Studies
  • Completed the 2010 Chara challenge through Dartmoor in seventh place
  • Completed the Three Peaks Challenge (Scafell Pike, Ben Nevis and Mount Snowdon) in 23 hrs 34 min

It made me want to do something different, a bit far-fetched, something that no-one would expect me to do - that's why I decided to go to the north pole.

I want teenagers to realise that they can do something too and getting out into the countryside is going to help them realise that the world has a lot more to offer.

I love the countryside because you're out of the city. The countryside opens you up to a different way of living.

People live in big houses, they are pleasant, they talk to you and say 'hello'.

When you're out in open space you have more time to focus, more room to think and to relax.

Hard times

I feel free to make the decisions I want to make. You're away from trouble, away from your peers and the pressures of others.

Living out in the wilderness you cannot survive on your own, you have to work as a team. It's these kind of skills - and others - that would have such a profound impact on teenagers' outlook on life.

The only way to get teenagers out of the city is for schools to organise more trips and more funding for youth groups, sea and army cadets. Funding shouldn't be cut.

Times might be hard but harnessing the potential of the young and encouraging them in the right direction will pay dividends in the future.

They will be more rounded, more employable and less likely to get into trouble.

The taxpayer will win out in the end. Unless we start giving opportunities and choice to inner city teenagers their worlds are going to remain narrow and they're more likely to choose the wrong paths in life.

* Mr Fields was a guest on Wednesday's Daily Politics, where he debated his film with MPs Jim Murphy and Steve Webb. The full show can be seen by UK viewers on iPlayer for seven days.

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