An Interview With One of London’s Most Well-Known Black Cabbies



I'm Tom Hutley. I'm 31 years old, London taxi driver. So in 2020, I had a bit of an identity crisis. Of course, you know, pandemic happens, stay at home, you're not allowed to go to work. So I'm thinking, well, if I can't drive my taxi, what am I? What can I do? So I got on YouTube and I was like, I'm just going to make videos about taxi driving, you know, the nuanced stuff, you know, what are passengers like? 75 ,000 people subscribe to Tom's videos, and over 6 million people have watched him driving around London. Most people who do watch Tom are surprised by something. They are surprised that he entirely navigates London without a GPS. Some cab drivers do use a GPS in their cab, but it's more used as a tool. We're not being directed by it. My analogy I would always use is that if you look at a professional chef, they can go into the kitchen, they can make any sort of like, you know, standard kind of recipe, and they can just do it by like intuition. I'll have a pinch of that, I'll do a bit of this, or I'm cooking for this person, I might change the recipe a little bit. Whereas the sat nav, using a sat nav is like going from a cookbook. We can all cook from a cookbook, but it might not turn out as well as what professional chef does. And the professional chefs can be more efficient, they might be able to get it done sooner, have that bit of flair about it. And that's what it's like being a taxi driver. From day to day, the same route I will take one day might not be the same the next day, even 10 minutes apart, you know, because something might have happened on the street, which then influences a small corner of London. And then that then has knock on effects across the rest of London. So how on earth does Tom navigate 25 ,000 streets in London without needing a GPS? Well, he's studied something called the knowledge. So I'll just introduce the knowledge of London. It's capital T, capital K. It's fascinating, even just the name of it just sounds so like prestigious, the knowledge and I'm like, wow. And it's the normalised process examination that us London cab drivers has had since around 1851. Its routes go back to the great exhibition held in Hyde Park during the reign of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. And basically the cab drivers, we've had taxis in London since the 17th century, we was first licensed by Oliver Cromwell, but taxi drivers would frequently get drunk, they would crash their carts of horses and stuff. It was astonishing that we still have a taxi trade today based upon those Hackney carriage drivers of the 18th, 19th century. So they brought in this formalised process called the knowledge whereby the drivers had to learn the streets that they were driving on. So if someone said taxi driver, take me to, they would know exactly where they were going. But yeah, effectively a character building exercise because of how long it would take to get your badge. In those sort of days back in the times of the great exhibition, it might have taken a year or so to do the formalised study to then eventually get to a badge. In my time, it took three years and the average sits around between two and four years. And as we can allude to that the knowledge basically involves learning just about anywhere within London within a six mile radius of Charing Cross, which is roughly the geographical centre of

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