If you thought you saw Scooby Doo chasing after Powerpuff Girl ‘Blossom’ whilst driving past east London’s Victoria Park on the morning of Wednesday 11th July, 2007 you were not imagining things. These wonderful characters were there to greet over 300 ‘special needs’ and underprivileged children being taken in a convoy of 100 decorated cabs on the London Taxidrivers’ Charity for Children’s legendary outing to Southend-on-Sea in their 79th anniversary year.
The drivers started arriving as early as 6.30am and in no time a dull and dismal park was brightened up with the sight of so many balloon decorated cabs. Grateful thanks must go to Firetuck for providing a breakfast of hot dogs and bacon rolls for the drivers and helpers and to Krispy Kreme for kindly donating yummy doughnuts for all. Each driver was given a voucher for diesel and our thanks go to the anonymous donor. As the children started to arrive, the huge task of allocating them to their cabs started and then it was time for the convoy to set off. The Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Councillor Ann Jackson, had come to see us off and we really appreciate the valuable time she had given up to join us.
We are deeply grateful to the City of London Police outriders, who escorted us safely from Victoria Park to Southend and back to London, staying with us all day and special thanks must go to Sgt. Martin Warner (commonly known as Jack Warner!) for pulling out all the stops and getting a Police mini van to join the convoy at the last minute. We had found ourselves with a small surplus of children without cabs, as some drivers had failed to turn up without letting us know and the Police mini van really saved the day!
The Mayor of Havering, Councillor Georgina Galpin, was waiting at our half way ‘wee’ stop at the Palms Hotel in Upminster to greet us and took great delight in talking to the children and waving us on our way and we thank her for coming. We are also grateful to the Palms Hotel for providing much-needed refreshments. The Essex Police outriders had now joined the City of London Police outriders and what a great job they all did in escorting us safely to the Cliffs Pavilion in Southend. We had encountered many road works and they all did an excellent job in getting us to Southend as quickly as possible and our grateful thanks go to them for all their support and also to the RAC and St John’s Ambulance teams.
As usual, many well wishers had lined the streets waving to the convoy and even a passing motorist stopped and ran over depositing a £20 note in a driver’s cab for the children. On arrival at the Cliffs Pavilion, the children were greeted by Southend United FC’s two mascots, Sammy the Shrimp and Elvis J Eel and after lots of cuddles with them, the children were taken inside and given lunch with their drivers and helpers. The fund’s Hon. Chairman, David Lessman, made a speech welcoming everyone and thanked all the people who had made the day possible.
After lunch, a mad dash was then made to Adventure Island and transport had been especially laid on to ferry everyone down to the sea front from the cliff top. We were very lucky that after all the recent bad weather, Southend remained dry and even the sun came out later to welcome us. Each child had been given £3 by the LTFUC to spend and with all the rides being free, the children had a most wonderful time. We had given the drivers and children our yellow baseball logo caps to wear, so it was easy to spot them and all I could see were excited, happy smiling children dragging reluctant drivers on to large rides; well they were only following instructions from the fund’s Hon. Secretary, who had told the children to do just that!!!
At 5pm it was back to the Cliffs Pavilion for tea and a disco and yet more fun to come. Our fantastic DJ, Dave Davies, had the children up and dancing in no time and Salvo the Clown, young magician Ryan Sholem, Keelie’s Facepainting and Balloonists Mr Chippy and Tony Hanscombe were all on hand to make sure the children were kept entertained and what a great job they did– thank you all.
The Fund’s Hon. Chairman, David Lessman, then welcomed the Deputy Mayor of Southend, Councillor Gwen Horrigan, MBE and thanked her for joining us and after making a speech welcoming us all to Southend, she presented prizes to the winners of the two best decorated cabs.
First prize of the Terry Stapleton Rose Bowl went to Steven Bell, Cab No. 57, who was driving a ‘Pink Rabbit’! Not often you see a Pink Rabbit on the road to Southend!! Second prize of the Peter Lucas Shield, went to Ruben Frampton, Cab No. 80. His cab was decorated with cartoon characters, furry animals and blaring speakers and our task of choosing which cab should win was made very difficult, as they were both brilliant!! Well done to both of them for all their efforts, especially as they both won first and second prizes last year. Drivers, how about giving them some competition next year? Their helpers each received boxes of chocolates.
All good things must come to an end and a conga was formed leading the children out of the hall and before leaving, each child was given a stick of rock by Paul of Van Looy’s in Southend and we are deeply grateful to him for his kind donation.
As if this wasn’t enough, there was still more fun to come!!! The Hadleigh Fire Station was eagerly waiting for the convoy to pass by on the return journey and when they arrived, the firemen immediately turned their hoses on them. Our regular drivers had their windows up, but the new unsuspecting drivers had no idea as to what was about to happen and the children were squealing with delight on seeing the drivers getting a soaking. The Police on the bikes were also drenched, but like real troopers entered into the spirit of the moment! Hearing the squeals of delight and seeing the laughter on the children’s faces was what the day was all about!!
I am glad to say that through the tireless efforts of the committee of the LTFUC, the children were treated to yet another highly successful Southend outing full of non-stop fun from start to finish. Returning home tired and weary, I was delighted to read the following e-mail from Adrian Clarke of Plaistow, who had contacted us through our website. What a nice message to end such a fantastic day.
“I have just watched the cavalcade of Taxis on their way to Southend, just by Basildon on the A127. I have nothing but admiration for the drivers that have taken time out to drive the kids to Southend. When people complain about taxi drivers getting in the way in London, perhaps they should come and see some of the good these guys are doing. Keep up the good work”.
Special thanks must to the following people for helping to make the day possible:-
City of London Police and Essex Police Outriders, Krispy Kreme, Firetuck (Leon), BBC London and the anonymous donor of the St George’s flags, Clipstone Street service station for their help and co-operation on this and our Legoland Outing, Staff and management of Victoria Park, Palms Hotel, Cliffs Pavilion, and Adventure Island, St. John’s Ambulance, RAC, Cartoon Network, Southend United FC, London Communications, Hadleigh Fire Station, Paul of Van Looy’s, DJ Dave Davies, Keelie’s Facepainting, Balloonists Mr Chippy & Tony Hanscombe, Salvo the Clown, magician Ryan Sholem and all our generous Sponsors. We sincerely apologise to anyone we have omitted.
LAST, BUT NOT LEAST, OUR DEEPEST AND GRATEFUL THANKS GO TO ALL THE WONDERFUL DRIVERS WHO GAVE UP A DAY’S WORK TO PUT SOME SUNSHINE INTO THESE CHILDREN LIVES. WE ARE TRULY INDEBTED TO YOU AND ALL THE WONDERFUL HELPERS FOR GIVING THE CHILDREN SUCH A GREAT DAY.
In 2008 the London Taxidrivers’ Charity for Children will proudly be celebrating 80 glorious years of helping thousands of needy children and many wonderful events are being planned for that year, so watch this space.
(You can find many images of the Southend Outing in the Photo Gallery)
Raymond Levy (Press Officer)
“None Walks so Tall as He who stoops to Help a Child”