A dozen black taxi drivers stopped their meters to form a festive fundraising choir – better known as the 12 Carols Christmas Carols.
Warming up with a Deck the Halls choir at East London’s Victoria Park last month, 15-year-old taxi driver Mark Monroe and his driver buddies – all drivers from the capital – will hit a high note on December 17 , performing the Carol at the famous Burlington Arcade in Piccadilly.
Single Mark, 52, from Ealing, West London, said: “I love singing and being a taxi driver so it combines two of my favorite things.”
He added: âWe are also fundraising for the London Taxi Drivers‘ Charity for Children, so we are spreading some festive joy and also doing something for the community. “
A big fan of the festivities, Mark, who became a black cab driver at age 36 in 2005, after studying for The Knowledge – a mandatory test for black cab drivers measuring their understanding of the city’s roads and streets – recalls giving Santa a helping hand in December. 2019.
âI picked up Santa Claus once,â he said with a laugh.
He added: “He was in formal wear and had a reservation and said, ‘I’m late, I have to deliver gifts.
“I got him there on time, so he was very happy.”
Mark, who says 99% of his clients are great, had no plans to become a taxi driver.
He said: âI never thought I would end up doing this.
âI was working in a pub in London and a friend of mine asked me, ‘Why don’t you become a black cab driver? “
âIt sounded good because you can work when you want. “
He added: âBut it’s not that easy, because to drive a black cab in London you have to do The Knowledge.
âIt took me about three and a half years of study and 22 exams before I got my green badge to be able to drive.
âI love my job, however. No day is the same and I meet people from all over the world.
When Mark saw the taxi app, FREE NOW, advertising in November this year for London taxi drivers eager to join a Christmas choir, the gregarious character jumped at the chance to sing along to a good cause.
âI love to sing,â he says. âI used to do plays and I have a little voice.
“I sing when I’m driving in the taxi, but not when there are other people in it!”
He added: âOne of the helpline apps I work for, FREE NOW, contacted me saying they were looking for taxi drivers to form a choir.
âThey said, ‘We’re just going to get all the cab drivers together and see what kind of sound we’re making.’ This is exactly what we did.
After a few difficult years because of Covid, the choir offered the Christmas cheer he and his fellow drivers dreamed of.
âThere is no Christmas party for taxi drivers and it can be lonely work sometimes,â Mark said.
âSo it was really nice spending time with other riders. We had our first rehearsal three weeks ago.
âWe all met and introduced ourselves. I knew one of the taxi drivers, Aiden Kent – he was the famous London taxi driver, who performed at the London Palladium.
He added, âI’ve worked with him before because I create content for YouTube called Secrets of London with Mark Monroe.
âSo it was great to see him again. It was really nice to get a group of taxi drivers together.
Besides having fun, taxi drivers singing Christmas carols raise money for the London Taxi Drivers’ Charity for Children, which takes kids on exciting days in the famous black cabs.
âThe London Taxi Drivers’ Charity for Children was founded in 1928,â said Mark.
âTheir objective is to finance and facilitate outings for children with specific and disadvantaged needs. Right now we’re taking them to Christmas parties.
“But in the summer, they could go somewhere like the beach.”
He added, âGoing somewhere in a black cab is exciting for them.
âChristmas is all about children and London taxi drivers have a reputation for appreciating the needs of children.
âWe never charge families taking their children to Great Ormond Street Hospital, for example. There has always been this link with helping young people in our community.
He added, “So singing and fundraising for kids at the same time makes everyone smile.”
Now, the 12 Christmas caroling taxi drivers are getting ready for their big day performing at the Burlington Arcade on December 17th.
âAt the end of November, we performed Deck the Halls in Victoria Park,â said Mark.
He added: âWe were also right next to the Christmas tree vendors so it was great and a lot of people really enjoyed the evening.
âDeck the Halls is a good rhythmic Christmas carol. We had a really good choirmaster, and we sound really good together.
âWe play it again at Burlington Arcade in Piccadilly then. “
He added: “I think it’s going to be magical, because you have the lights outside and they really know how to do the Christmas lights on Bond Street and around.”
But, while Deck the Halls is Mark’s favorite Christmas carol, he says Chis Rea’s Driving home for Christmas is his favorite Yuletide song.
He said: “I really love singing Deck the Halls with the Taxi Driver Choir, but my favorite Christmas song is Driving Home for Christmas.”
He added: “I come home on Christmas morning to my family in Bristol every year and this song really fits me.
âI’m singing Driving Home for Christmas while I’m doing just that. It is truly magical.
Created by the FREE NOW rideshare app to raise money for London Taxi Drivers’ charity for children, the choir will perform live at the charity’s fundraising event on December 17th at Burlington Arcade.