Meet Deborah Maw, who sailed with us for all three legs of our eXXpedition Round Britain voyage in 2017. As part of our Ambassador Spotlight Series we wanted to share Deborah’s Superpower Story.
Can You Tell Me a Bit About Yourself?
I’m Deborah, I live in a van, I am Pisces and I love the sea. I stopped eating fish 30 years ago when I realised the toxicity of the seas, and began to learn about the issues surrounding plastic consumption and the ocean.
I come from a science background, having begun my career as a microscopist. I had always been fascinated by what things looked like when they were magnified. I remember being amazed by the beauty – all the different shapes and colours – of microplastics, when I examined them under a microscope for the first time.
My background in science, and interest in the environment, took me into activism, and Extinction Rebellion (XR), with whom I joined in 2018. Despite all the things I learnt, after COVID I made the decision to leave XR. I personally felt I had spent too long focusing on problems, and I wanted to start channelling my efforts into solutions. Looking for solutions immediately felt more inclusive to me.
I now spend time using my love for creativity as a channel to generate change, and inspire others to do the same. I am currently completing a professional speaking course, as well as growing my newly established retreat – Path of Play – for people looking to unlock their own creative niche.
“I now spend time using my love for creativity as a channel to generate change, and inspire others to do the same.”
How Did You End Up Joining An eXXpedition Voyage?
In 2018, I spent 12 days canoeing solo from Leeds to Liverpool, sampling microplastics all along the way. Whilst I didn’t publish the data, I rented a lab in Edinburgh after the expedition, where I photographed my findings and converted those photographs into artwork and cards. By doing so, I was upcycling the “waste” plastic, whilst also raising awareness about what I had discovered. The trip left me eager to learn more and do more.
When I saw the chance to join eXXpedition on Facebook, I couldn’t waste the chance to learn more, but also the opportunity to sail!
I think my background in protest camps, particularly at Greenham Common, certainly helped my application.
What Did You Learn That Surprised You Most During The Voyage?
Prior to going on the voyage, I completed an online course which involved writing a dissertation. My research focused on the plastic waste created by fishing tackle in the Northern Hebrides. Given my background in microscopy, and this research in the Hebrides, the concentration of microplastic in the ocean did not come as a surprise to me.
However, what stood out most to me was what I learnt about telling stories. We did two storytelling workshops whilst out on the boat. I loved them both so much that I knew it was something I had to pursue when I returned to land.
Since then I have spoken at three separate professional speaking events, my latest being at Felbridge in July!
How Would You Describe Your Superpower?
My smile, and my ability to communicate. They are two different things, but I think the former is essential for the latter.
How Has The Voyage Influenced Your Work Since?
I absolutely love sailing, and have been eager to get out on a boat since I returned from the expedition. I recently sailed to the Northern Hebrides again with the Whale and Dolphin Trust to examine the relationship between whale and dolphin activity, and NATO activity. I have also joined a group called CatZero, which is a non-profit working to provide young persons not engaged in education, employment or training with CV and practical skills. One of their activities is an 8 day sailing trip. I am dying to get back on the water so I have volunteered to help.
Since quitting my activism work with XR, I have also opened a retreat called The Path of Play. The retreats aim to move people into more imaginable, creative headspaces. The retreats are always in nature, close to water, and somewhere where I am able to make a fire. Importantly, all the materials I bring with me for my guests are recycled material. I want to unlock creativity, but place emphasis on the power of using waste materials to achieve this. Throughout my time at art collage, all the pieces I had created used waste materials and waste plastics. I wanted to bring the same approach into these retreats.
What are you most proud to have achieved?
Going back to Art College when I was 49 for 4 years. No matter your age, it is ok to play and get creative. Going back to Art Collage taught me the importance of celebrating imperfection, rather than chasing perfection.
“Going back to Art Collage taught me the importance of celebrating imperfection, rather than chasing perfection.”
What Are Your Plans Going Forward?
I am currently completing a professional speakers training course, with Andy Harrington – the top speaking coach in the world! I won an award at my last live talk, so I am looking to grow my momentum in this space, as well as running my retreats, and helping others to find their own creative potential.
What is the recipe for great communication?
To listen, and to realise creativity’s ability to nurture that listening process.
What Keeps You Hopeful About The Future Of The Ocean?
I believe people are waking up. As Chris Packham says, we only need 25% to care, and the whole thing will turn. Each day I can sense we are getting closer to that number, and that keeps me hopeful.
“…we only need 25% to care, and the whole thing will turn.”
If You Could Give One Message To The World, What Would It Be?
Follow your heart, follow what you love.
To find out more about Deborah’s work, click here.