Isle Of Dogs: How London taxi drivers give time to brighten up children’s lives

London Taxi Drivers’ Charity For Children organises trips and activities for disadvantaged kids

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“It was in my second year of doing convoys with the charity – we were taking the children to Southend and my passenger was a child of about nine with her carer,” said Antony Moore.

“She was still in a pushchair, being fed from a bottle and she looked like she was in pain.

“When we got to Southend, she went on one of the very slow snail-rides. As I watched her come round the corner, she was smiling and that was when I was hooked. 

“From then on I just got more and more involved with anything I could do to help.”

Antony, who lives on the Isle Of Dogs, is the honorary chairman of the London Taxi Drivers’ Charity For Children – an organisation that has been dedicated to helping, supporting and delighting disadvantaged and special needs kids since 1928.

Known for its convoy trips and outings, the organisation has also raised money for various appeals, funding medical equipment, technology, playgrounds, mobility aids and even hospice renovations over the course of its 95-year history.

While its first ever trip was a coach excursion to London Zoo for children living in Norwood Orphanage – organised by former resident and hackney carriage driver Mick Cohen – 1931 saw its first convoy with 40 licensed taxis taking kids to Southend-On-Sea where they could spend 6d in pocket money (about £1.94 today).

Last month the charity undertook its latest convoy excursion with more than 60 taxis taking children and their teachers and carers from local schools to Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire. 

Taxis collect the children at Asda on the Isle Of Dogs

“The taxis get decorated with balloons and streamers and so on,” said Antony.

“We have to have ambulances and the AA in tow in case anyone breaks down or needs medical assistance and then off we go – beeping horns with all the kids waving out of the windows.

“The journey is part of the fun because they don’t know exactly where they are going – it’s like a mystery tour and they have a really great day.”

Antony became a taxi driver after retiring from a job with Parcel Force.

“I’ve been driving for about 13 years now and I got involved with the charity in the first year,” he said.

Kids on the charity’s most recent trip

“I was looking for a second career and I could never be a plumber or something like that because I’m not that dexterous – but I like driving and talking to people, so it worked out.

“I started studying for The Knowledge when I was in my late 30s and it took me about four years – it was the natural choice after that. 

“The man who owned the school that I’d studied with was part of the charity and so I thought I would join in.

“I became the chairman in January, taking over from Michael Son, who had been doing it for about 20 years.

“Some of the drivers who are involved with us have been volunteering for more than 50 years – it’s a lifetime. 

The last convoy trip was to Paradise Wildlife Park in Herfordshire

“Two have been awarded MBEs for their work and one’s a BEM, so there’s been some recognition but, of course, that’s not the reason we do it.

“It’s all about the children. On one trip I was driving one kid through Woburn Safari Park and he got really excited – at first I thought something was wrong and we couldn’t have stopped.

“But his carer explained it was just because he’d seen a tiger for the first time and he didn’t know they were real – he’d only seen them in books before that.

“It’s moments like that which make everything worth it.”

While the charity runs various excursions and activities, its flagship event sees it host around 600 children and their carers at the Marriott’s Grosvenor House Hotel.

“Just imagine what it’s like for a child, pulling up to one of London’s best five-star hotels on Park Lane – an address they know from their Monopoly board,” said Antony.

“Then you walk into the great room which was originally an ice rink so you can imagine the size of it.

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is held every year on Park Lane

“Inside it’s all done out with decorations and there’s a dance floor and all sorts of entertainment. They walk in and their faces light up.

“That’s the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, which we hold over the festive season and the children get gifts and toys they can take away with them.

“As well as the entertainers – who all do the event for free – there are Pearly Kings and Queens from different boroughs and lots of people dressed up.

“It’s an amazing spectacle for the kids.

“Being a part of this charity has given me the opportunity to do things I’d never have dreamed of, like taking part in two Lord Mayor’s Shows.

“Our patron is Queen Camilla, so I’ve been fortunate to meet her several times, including driving her to deliver hundreds of Paddington Bear toys to Barnardo’s in her first act as consort to the King.

“Our members were also in the grandstand for the coronation and I was invited to represent the charity at the King’s Coronation Garden Party.”

The charity is always on the lookout for drivers to get involved and sponsors to help fund the work that it does.

Children enjoying the party at the Marriott’s Grosvenor House Hotel.

“The trip to Paradise Wildlife Park was paid for by the Worshipful Company Of Tin-Plate Workers, so we owe them a massive thank-you,” he said. 

“All the drivers involved give up their time for free and we’d love to get more support to fund more trips like this – we’re also starting to vary the kind of things that we do.

“We’ve done two trips to the Docklands Sailing And Watersports Centre on the Isle Of Dogs, for example, where the kids get to try kayaking and paddleboarding.

“We had one child who stepped on the pontoon and immediately got scared but the staff there are so encouraging and by the end he was jumping in and out of the water, having got the confidence to do that.

“It was wonderful to see. We’re always looking for new ideas as to what the kids would enjoy and what would help them develop.

“We would love to do more, but everything costs money and we need support to do it.”

Anyone interested in getting involved with the London Taxi Drivers’ Charity For Children can find out more information about the organisation, its activities and its history on its website.

Kids in convoy to Paradise Wildlife Park

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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