• Sun. Aug 7th, 2022

A dozen black London cabbies team up as the 12 Christmas-singing cabbies perform Deck the Halls to raise money for charity

ByElla E. Kidwell

Dec 10, 2021

A dozen black taxi drivers stopped their meters to form a festive fundraising choir – better known as the 12 Christmas Singing Taxi Drivers.

Warming up with a choir from Deck the Halls in east London’s Victoria Park last month, 15-year-old taxi driver Mark Monroe and his taxi buddies – all drivers in the capital – will hit a high note on December 17 , performing the carol at Piccadilly’s famous Burlington Arcade.

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: “We also raise money for the London Taxi Drivers’ Charity for Children, so we’re spreading festive cheer and also doing something for the community.”

A big fan of the festivities, Mark, who became a black taxi driver aged 36 in 2005, after studying for The Knowledge – a mandatory test for black taxi drivers assessing their understanding of city roads and streets – recalls having given a helping hand to Santa Claus in December 2019.

“I picked up Santa Claus once,” he laughed.

Mark has been a <a class=taxi driver in London for 15 years and has even picked up Santa Claus (PA Real Life/FREE NOW).” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/d1wRj539xEw4i5YZKIElhQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY0MA–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/YM1V.Wov6v_NlisyZHN7YA–~B/aD02Njc7dz0xMDAwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/https://media.zenfs.com/en/pa_media_real_life_201/0bb5695b0eb3eac85b3a7798399e895e”/>

Mark has been a taxi driver in London for 15 years and has even picked up Santa Claus (PA Real Life/FREE NOW).

He added: “He was in formal wear and had a reservation and said, ‘I’m late, I have to deliver presents.

“I got him there on time, so he was very happy.”

Mark, who says 99% of his customers are great, didn’t plan to be a taxi driver.

He said, “I never thought I would end up doing this.

“I was working in London in a pub and a friend of mine asked me, ‘Why don’t you become a black taxi driver?’

“It sounded good because you can work whenever you want.”

He added: “But it’s not that easy because to drive a black cab in London you have to do The Knowledge.

“It took me about three and a half years of study and 22 exams before I got my green badge to be able to drive.

“I love my job, though. No two days are alike and I meet people from all over the world.

Mark pictured here far right with his fellow taxi drivers loves to sing (PA Real Life/FREE NOW).

Mark pictured here far right with his fellow taxi drivers loves to sing (PA Real Life/FREE NOW).

When Mark saw the taxi app, FREE NOW, advertise in November this year for London taxi drivers wanting to join a Christmas choir, the gregarious character jumped at the chance to sing for a good cause.

“I love to sing,” he said. “I used to do theater and I have a bit of a voice.

“I sing when I’m driving in the taxi – but not when there are other people in it!”

He added: “One of the ridesharing apps I work for, FREE NOW, contacted me to say they were looking for taxi drivers to form a choir.

“They said, ‘We’re just going to get all the taxi drivers together and see what kind of sound we make. That’s exactly what we did.

After a difficult couple of years due to Covid, the choir delivered the Christmas cheer he and his fellow drivers craved.

“There is no Christmas party for taxi drivers and it can sometimes be a lonely job,” Mark said.

“So it was really nice to hang out with other riders. We had our first rehearsal three weeks ago.

“We all had a meeting and introduced ourselves. I knew one of the taxi drivers, Aiden Kent – he’s the famous London singing taxi driver, who performed at the London Palladium.

The 12 Christmas Cabbies perform Deck the Halls at the famous Burlington Arcade in Piccadilly on December 17 (PA Real Life/FREE NOW).

The 12 Christmas Cabbies perform Deck the Halls at the famous Burlington Arcade in Piccadilly on December 17 (PA Real Life/FREE NOW).

He added: “I’ve worked with him before, as I create content for YouTube called Secrets of London with Mark Monroe.

“So it was great to see him again. It was really nice to get a group of taxi drivers together.

As well as having fun, the carol-singing taxi drivers raise money for the London Taxi Drivers’ Charity for Children, which takes children on exciting days out in the famous black cabs.

“The London Taxi Drivers’ Charity for Children was founded in 1928,” Mark said.

“Their goal is to fund and facilitate outings for special needs and disadvantaged children. Right now we are taking them to Christmas parties.

“But in the summer they could go somewhere like the beach.”

Mark is looking forward to playing Deck the Halls on December 17 at the famous Burlington Arcade in Piccadilly (PA Real Life/FREE NOW).

Mark is looking forward to playing Deck the Halls on December 17 at the famous Burlington Arcade in Piccadilly (PA Real Life/FREE NOW).

He added: “Going somewhere in a black cab is exciting for them.

“Christmas is a children’s story and London taxi drivers have a reputation for appreciating the needs of children.

“We never charge families for taking their children to Great Ormond Street Hospital, for example. There has always been this connection with helping young people in our community.

He added, “So singing and raising money for kids at the same time makes everyone smile.”

Now, the 12 Christmas Caroling Cabbies are gearing up for their big day by performing at the Burlington Arcade on December 17.

“At the end of November we sang Deck the Halls in Victoria Park,” Mark said.

Mark pictured her right raising money for the London Taxi Drivers' Charity for Children (PA Real Life/FREE NOW).

Mark pictured her right raising money for the London Taxi Drivers’ Charity for Children (PA Real Life/FREE NOW).

He added: ‘We were also right next to the Christmas tree vendors so that was great and a lot of people really enjoyed the evening.

“Deck the Halls is a good, upbeat Christmas carol. We had a very good choir mistress and we sounded really good together.

“We will then play it again at Burlington Arcade in Piccadilly.”

He added: “I think it’s going to be magical because you have the lights outside and they really know how to do Christmas lights on and around Bond Street.”

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 like to sing Deck the Halls with the Taxi Drivers Choir, but my favorite Christmas song is Driving Home for Christmas.”

He added: “Every year I come home on Christmas morning with my family in Bristol and this song really fits me.

“I sing Driving Home for Christmas while I do just that. It’s really magical.

Created by ridesharing app FREE NOW to raise money for London Taxi Drivers’ Charity for Children, the choir will perform live at the charity’s fundraising event on December 17 at Burlington Arcade.