Sarah Mooney's eXXpedition Story - interview

Glastonbury-based storyteller Sarah Mooney is setting off on what, as a bard of Glastonbury myself, I cannot help but see as a Bardic Quest. Starting this week, Sarah is going to be sailing the Atlantic Ocean from Senegal to Brazil, with thirteen other women (including scientists and sailors), creating stories on the way to bring back to schools and other groups on her return.

She has raised an amazing £4605 towards funding the voyage through crowdfunding - you can see her made for the fundraising effort, in which she explains some of her motivations and hopes for the project, here:

I asked Sarah a few questions before she set sail.

How did you come to be involved in eXXpedition?
I sailed from Cornwall to Ireland on a 100-year-old ketch called the Keewaydin with my son and some friends a  couple of years ago. When I came home I kept saying to myself "I am a sailor!" On board there was talk about a group called the New Dawn Traders who are sailing goods from South America, mostly rum, chocolate and coffee. Fair trade and carbon neutral. Epic! When I got home and I looked them up and on their website was a post about eXXpedition from the vision behind it, Lucy Gilliam.

What do you know about the other members of the Ascension crew, and have you worked with any of them before? 
I have met them all once. I was very nervous as they are mostly scientists and was expecting to feel out of my depth but they are 13 warm clear women with passion, commitment, and confidence.

What happens when you get to the other side of the Atlantic?
The boat goes onward to the Amazon and there will be talks,workshops, wreck dives, beach clean ups. I will be heading home to scoop up my son and hold him in a salty hug.

How long do you expect the journey to take?
It should take about 28 days.

A big part of what you are doing with eXXpedition Story is to create stories on the journey, to share in schools on your return. Do you anticipate there being space (and time) to share stories with the crew during the journey, as well?
Ooh I hope so, to tell them and to listen 

When you get back, you are going to be sharing the stories with "as many young women as possible". Do you think it is also important that young men hear the stories?
Good question!
There are aspects of the mission that have a fully female focus  but the more I tune into the project the more it becomes clear that I will be creating stories for all children and adults. Stories that are vast enough and deep enough for children to connect with their limitless potential and audacious thinking. It is the only way I know to support them to create new ways of living and being that are sustainable and harmonious.
My experience as a woman and mother to a son is  that boys are encouraged to be adventurous and have many role models in that area. I recently saw a primary school production of Robin Hood and the boys got to run around shooting bows and arrows, whilst the girls combed Maid Marian's hair and sang about falling in love. It is such a polarised message and not helpful to either of the sexes. One aspect of this project is to deliver the possibility of adventure for girls. The stories of ocean toxicity, new ways to live without throwing away plastic and self love are relevant to all of us.

eXXpedition Story seems to have two major motivations: raising awareness of ocean pollution, and inspiring young women. Is it possible to say which of these is the bigger impetus for you personally at this moment?
It feels the same to me. The way we treat our earth and oceans and the way we treat the feminine. As I deepen my understanding of it all I see the disempowerment that the masculine is shouldering too so it may be that it all integrates into one subject as my understand increases.

For five years you have been resident storyteller at SS Great Britain. It seems like that will have given you a lot of experience that will set you in good stead for this new journey. Can you tell us a bit about what it's like to be a storyteller on a ship? It sounds like an amazing job to have!
I LOVE IT! A chance to dream into the different lives on board and their motivations for travelling. To create stories about their hopes and fears.I enjoy tuning into the great engineering mind of Brunel.

What do you think will be different about being the Storyteller on the Sea Dragon, compared to SS Great Britain?
On the SS Great Britain I am recreating a feeling of being out at sea. I wont need to do that on board the Sea Dragon!

Is this the longest sea journey you've ever been on? What was the longest you were on before this?
Yes the longest by far, i have only sailed for four days before.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about eXXpedition before you go?
I have a skill, storytelling, and children trust me so it feels important to create stories that will nourish and inspire them. It feels like an honour and a service. I love this planet and I love people. I am committed to finding new ways to use storytelling as a container for growth and love.


Big thanks to Sarah for talking to me about this journey and her part in it - look for updates on the eXXpedition blog and on her own Facebook page for the journey.. The Sea Dragon sets sail tomorrow!


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