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An Oral History of the London Hackney Cab

"Sherbet Dab" is a new oral history project starting in August 2017 exploring the history of the London cabbie.

Arts and education charity digital:works is working with two London primary schools, the London Transport Museum, Unite and cabbies themselves to uncover the history and stories from the lives of cabbies. We will explore the history of the taxi from the perspective of the people who have been driving them for hundreds of years but with particular emphasis on those driving today as well as retired cabbies.

Year 6 children from St George the Martry and Westminster Cathedral Primary Schools will work with historians at the London Transport Museum Depot in Acton to explore the history of the industry. A historian will present this history along with veteran taxi driver Alf Townsend and Unite Education Officer and former cabbie Danny Freeman. Members of the London Vintage Taxi Association will also come along to show the children cabs dating from the 1930s to the present day.

The children will also meet with other cabbies to find out more about their lives and history.

After these workshops and activities the children will work with digital:works to understand oral history techniques and recording. They will then develop interview questions which will allow them to conduct and record oral history interviews with cabbies.

These interviews will be edited and combined with archive and personal photos as well as archive footgage to make a unique and fascinating educational documentary film starring the cabbies.

The children will also be producing creative and historical written work inspired by the people they meet and their research on project.

The film is going to be premiered at the London Transport Museum hosted by the children and with an audience of cabbies, historians and the public.

It will also be shown at a number of other events planned at the London Transport Museum as well as at local history groups and film festivals.

The film, writing and artwork will also be on display on this website.

The film will be produced as a DVD which, along with a booklet of the children's writing will be given to all those involved with the project as a big thank you.

The full unedited interviews will be on this website and will also be given to the London Transport Museum for their archive. The London Transport Museum also has plans to use material generated in this project to launch a new taxi exhibition in the future.

This project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Unite.

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Latest News

Interviews now completed.

We have had an amazing response to our call out for cabbies to come in and be interviewed by the children for the project. Twenty four cabbies, from those who started driving in the 1950s and early 60s right up to more recent arrivals came and generously shared the stories of their working lives. So a huge thank you to all of the cabbies for their support of this project.

These interviews will be added to this website and also given to archives in London and are also being edited to make an educational film which will also appear on this site. Meanwhile, please have a look at this film to get a flavour of what the 60 or so children involved with this project have been doing.

Feedback from digital:works on Vimeo.


The Project Kicks off!

On Friday September 8th 2017 Year 6 children from primary schools St George the Martry and Westminster Cathedral came along to the London Transport Museum Depot in Acton to begin the project. A historian gave them a talk and quiz about the history of the trade going back to Oliver Cromwell. Members of the London Vintage Taxi Association came along with several old cabs to show the children and give them all a ride. Taxi drivers Alf Townsend, Suzanne Sullivan, Stanley Roth and former driver Danny Freeman from Unite came along to speak to the children about their working lives.

It was a great day. Lots of laughs and fun. After a full day the children left to return to their schools and some more cabbies came along to take part in a reminiscence session, to share memories and talk about key aspects of the trade. This discussion was recorded and will be fed back to the children when they are developing their interview questions.


London Vintage Taxi Association mebers show children some old London taxis

workshop on the history of the London cabbie

Danny Freeman talks to children about his time as a cabbie

some members of the London taxi reminiscence group

Film Making Training and writing begins

After the general introduction in the first week of the project digital-works have gones into both schools to begin training in writing and film making. It's a demanding and intensive bit of training covering aspects of film making from using the cameras and lighting, to sound and then also interview techniques. The children need to be completely ready to take on the full responsibility for filming and condcuting the interviews.

Children from Westminster Cathedral School learn film making skills from digital-works.