Recording the memories of London cab drivers

Sydney Arthur Roebuck, a taxi cab proprietor
Sydney Arthur Roebuck, a taxi cab proprietor from 1920–1952, in front of two generations of Beardmore taxis. Credit: TFL
A new project is saving the memories of taxi drivers and bringing their fascinating stories to a new generation of Londoners.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded £40,900 to charity digital:works to explore the history of the London cabbie over the last 80 years. It takes the story from when taxis were used as water pumps during the Blitz to the advent of the sat nav.

Supported by Unite, the trade union of many taxi drivers, the Sherbet Dab project will enable local primary schoolchildren to interview and record the experiences of cabbies who have spent their working lives criss-crossing the capital.

A new documentary film

These personal accounts will be archived at London Transport Museum and used to create a new documentary film to be broadcast on YouTube. The film, which is aimed at students, parents and friends, will be premiered at the museum at the beginning of 2018.

“This is a great opportunity to show ourselves to the public as a highly trained, professional outfit who have served Londoners for hundreds of years, especially amongst youngsters.”
Cabbie Alf Townsend

Alf Townsend, a cabbie since 1962, said: “This is a great opportunity to show ourselves to the public as a highly trained, professional outfit who have served Londoners for hundreds of years, especially amongst the youngsters who may not be aware of our history.”

Getting hands on

Year six pupils will learn film making skills and visit London Transport Museum to take part in tours led by former cab drivers. They will also enjoy bespoke history workshops. The children will also visit the Museum Depot in Acton to hear from the London Vintage Cab Association about how cabs have changed from the 1920s to the present day, including a free ride!

To keep up-to-date with the project, check out the project website.

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