Aged six, Dwayne Fields said goodbye to a laid back, simple childhood in rural Jamaica, and hello to a new and unfamiliar life in London’s melting pot.
The now 37-year-old struggled to adapt from living in a friendly, tight-knit town in Saint Catherine to an East London estate where everyone lived on top of each other.
He remembers crying as a child the very first time he saw a blanket of snow outside his bedroom window in Stoke Newington because it was completely alien to him.
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(Image: Dwayne Fields)
“I remember getting off the plane and looking out thinking, where’s all the trees? And the woods and the fields? Why can’t I see any sugarcane and breadfruit and plantain and why can’t I see anything I recognise?” Dwayne told MyLondon.
“Everyone laughs at me because when I was a kid, I was the weirdo walking around the area with a cat, a dog, a pig, and a bird or a lizard in my pocket.
“That was me when I was a kid in Jamaica, and when I came here it was, ‘that’s the kid that climbs trees and gets baby squirrels’, b ut then puberty happens and peer pressure and wanting to be ‘normal’ and part of what everyone else is into.”
(Image: Dwayne Fields)
As he got older, Dwayne hid his passions for the outdoors and conformed to a life of football and hanging around all day in the cage on his estate.
But this was not enough for Dwayne to turn his back on his true passion.
He’s now an avid polar explorer, a passionate adventurer and a familiar face on The One Show and BBC Breakfast.
He also has the incredible achievement of being the first Black Briton to reach the North Pole.
Though the life Dwayne once dreamed of as a child could have gone down a very different route.
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In his late teens, Dwayne was chased and attacked by a “rowdy” group of boys from a neighbouring estate after they noticed him and his friends were filming for a media project in the local town hall.
He was stabbed in the lower stomach and his upper chest as he tried to flee from the mob and into his friend’s car.
“All I remember from that was the car stopping, not even realising I had been stabbed, just getting really hot and finding my shirt was sticking to me,” Dwayne recalls.
Fortunately, the blade missed his lungs and hit a bone instead, saving his life.
But by the time Dwayne was in his early 20s, he was shot at twice after he confronted another boy for stealing his moped.
Before he could get his final words out, the boy on the other side of the gun had already pulled the trigger.
Miraculously, the gun misfired and Dwayne’s life was spared. But the traumatic incidents left Dwayne with phantom pains from wounds that almost took his life.
(Image: Michael Wharley)
He became a recluse from the outside world as he recovered from the shooting, which his younger brother had also witnessed.
He said: “I chose not to retaliate and stayed inside for a week or two and separated myself from everyone. In that time, I decided ‘go back to being you’.
“I’d been this guy who said yes and laughed at the wrong jokes, who’d gone left when I wanted to go right so many times that it was hard to distil who I even was throughout that.
“I just went all the way back to the beginning.”
Dwayne began revisiting his love for the outdoors again, starting with a 10K run, then the famous Three Peaks challenge – climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in under 24 hours.
He began to prepare his body for all sorts of expeditions – he ran from Stoke Newington to London Bridge, walked endlessly for four hours with a backpack weighing five to 10 kilos and pulled tyres across Hackney Marches.
Dwayne switched to training in the park late at night after a group of boys laughed and intimidated him.
After narrowly missing out on an expedition to the South Pole with Ben Fogle and James Cracknell, Dwayne jumped at the chance when the BBC asked him to consider a venture to the North Pole instead.
He lived off pasta for a month, used his university savings, took out a loan and took on gruelling work shifts just to fund the trip.
“I funded it myself because when you go to someone and you say, ‘I’m this Black kid from Hackney who’s never been on an expedition before, but I’m going to go on and do this amazing thing in the arctic’, who’s going to fund something that they don’t believe you’re capable of doing?
“Now I’m living a life that I think younger me would be proud of,” he said.
Aged just 26, Dwayne made history as the first Black Brit to walk over 400 nautical miles to the North Pole in 2010.
His expedition marked the centenary of Matthew Henson, the first man among a group of explorers to ever reach the North Pole – Matthew happened to be Black.
When asked if the adventure world is becoming more inclusive and diverse, Dwayne says it’s heading in the right direction.
“You’re likely to see this big and bulky strong man who’s ex-military and middle class standing at the top of a mountain somewhere overlooking the distance, its unlikely you’ll see someone like me – but that’s changing,” he added.
Determined to break the stereotypes, Dwayne co-founded WeTwo Foundation, a charity that encourages underprivileged young people to reconnect and learn about the outdoors. Dwayne and fellow explorer, Phoebe Smith, will be taking 10 young people to Antarctica in 2022.
The group will be planting trees while they are out on the expedition to ensure their trip is 100 per cent carbon neutral.
Dwayne has also been a guest presenter on BBC’s Countryfile and Springwatch.
Later this month, Dwayne will join movie icon, Will Smith in the upcoming series, ‘Welcome to Earth’ as he travels to all corners of the planet with various explorers.
Welcome to Earth airs on December 8.
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