What a thing it is to drive a cab around London on a sunny Saturday afternoon and be showered with love and affection everywhere you go – believe me, being a taxi driver isn’t always like that.
Back in October 2013 I wrote my first blog post about picking up the Bishop of Salisbury, the Church of England’s first bishop to back same-sex marriage. I wrote about the stereotypical idea of the London cabbie as a man of socially illiberal views and fantasised about what a positive message about the trade it would send to drive around in a rainbow cab in solidarity with the LGBT rights movement.
This January I resolved to get more involved in the gay community and contacted Martyn Loukes, chair of TfL’s LGBT network OUTbound, with a view to making my rainbow cab dream a reality. My suggestion was that I drive my cab in TfL’s entry into the Pride parade in June, and that we covered it with a rainbow livery for the occasion. Martyn was instantly keen and we got cracking on making it happen.
TfL designed the livery along the same lines as that of the number 8 bus already in service, taxi advertising firm Ubiquitous sponsored the fitting, and my gracious gaffer Howard at Easyrentacab in Bethnal Green gave permission for his cab to be wrapped and driven in the parade. The transformation was carried out last week ready for International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia. It’s on the street now. Look out for it and give me a wave.
It is such a thrill to drive this cab. It has changed my job. I am constantly photographed as I go around town. People point, stare, smile; I hear them reading out loud as I go by, “Ride with Pride? Ride with Pride!” I get thumbs ups. People shout, “Love it!” as I pass. The positive response from pedestrians, passengers and other cabbies has been overwhelming.
It is very nice indeed that despite the current, many and much discussed elsewhere disagreements between TfL and the taxi trade, we have been able to work together to make this happen. I am absolutely delighted that for the first time, this year a hackney carriage will be parading with TfL in Pride alongside a Routemaster bus, right at the heart of the London transport family, which is exactly where we should be.
Waiting at the lights at the Britannia Junction, Camden, on Saturday night, a little old craggy-faced Irishman tapped at the window. “Excuse me mate”, he said, “Where are the gay bars around here?” Old men don’t normally ask me directions to gay bars at traffic lights, and it was with some sadness that I realised that, now the Black Cap has been taken from us I was unable to help him.
On Friday in Shad Thames I was delayed by some huge group cycle ride going past. There must have been two- or three-hundred of them. Many of them cheered me as they went by. I’m not sure if they thought Ride with Pride was a cycling thing or what, but it was lovely anyway. There I was, a London taxi driver, filled with joy and grinning my head off in the evening sun as hundreds of happy cyclists rode past, holding me up, cheering, smiling and waving as they went. The normal way of things is being turned on its head by my beautiful taxi.
And this is the thing – it’s not just about being gay. It’s about going around and spreading a message of love and positivity for everyone. You don’t have to be gay to be proud of who you are. I see the rainbow cab and the Ride with Pride slogan as a simple celebration of diversity and inclusivity. It’s Pride in who you are, it’s Pride in this venerable and brilliant taxi trade, and it’s Pride in this dazzling and all-welcoming city.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see more cabs going around this magnificent city in advertising liveries that don’t sell but instead give – a message of love emblazoned on an iconic London taxi truly is a fabulous thing. It presents the trade in a different, positive, open and welcoming light. It says “Yes.” It says, “London, we love you. All of you.” It says Yes to love, Yes to kindness, Yes to the city, Yes to the world, and Yes to open hearts and minds.
Ride with Pride everybody, Ride with Pride – because you’re bloody marvellous, every last one of you. As that great Londoner Jonny Blamey might say, let’s have a revolution of love.