If there is one thing that everyone associates with London life it’s the iconic black cab. Todays’ guest is The Capital Cabbie himself David Burnetts, whose been a London Licensed taxi driver since 1978. Just imagine that for a moment. David has been driving clients around our magnificent city for over 40 years.
I had the pleasure of chatting with David in the back of his spacious cab whilst parked up outside Christie’s Auction house in beautiful St James’s. Being a born and bred Londoner, David has seen many changes to the culture, street scene, and music that is synonymous with our capital. Not only does he know every nook and crannie from taking The Knowledge back in the 70’s, but he is also a qualified London green badge tour guide, which he gained from the Museum of London.
If you want to take one of David’s many fascinating tours from the Harry Potter Experience, to Beatles London or the Jewish East End, or have him create your own bespoke day out, there’s little that he doesn’t know.
In this episode David takes us on a historical tour of the famous black cab and his own personal London journey.
“I thought: I don’t think I can spend my days behind a steering wheel. I just don’t think I could do it.”[12:18]
David’s journey to the steering wheel was a long one. He grew up in the sixties when culture and music was roaring and where he was studying fashion. He went through a lot of career changes over the years—from working at boutiques, selling confectionery, leather goods, footwear, until he finally met the woman of his dreams and asked for her hand in marriage—at which his Father-in-law to be suggested he become a cabbie to support his daughter. David was quite taken aback by this, but 40 years later he couldn’t be happier at where the taxi has taken him.[15:52]
The Knowledge: this is the grueling series of tests one must apply to and take in order to become a certified taxi driver. It’s been around since 1851 and consists of over 20,000 streets and a book of routes with intersecting spokes like a bicycle hub. You have to learn the routes on your own time and funding—a process that usually takes 2 and a half years like it did for David. They bring you in for testing at shorter and shorter intervals over the test which weeds out 90% of applicants—but not David.
“Since day one of gaining my badge I always loved showing my passengers—whether they liked it or not—the sights they were going past.”[31:50]
David absolutely loves his job, but years back he wanted another challenge that would intersect with his driving. So, he took a course facilitated by the Museum of London just for cab drivers which makes them certified guides. He found himself in a classroom again with like-minded drivers—who all ended up sticking together after passing the course to form a cooperative: Black Taxi Tours. They all help research and develop tours and give prospective tour goers to one another based on interest and specialty. David runs tours that run through the Jewish East End, A Beatles tour which visits Abbey Road, their homes, and the Palladium which started Beatles Mania. He also runs a Harry Potter tour where he guides children and adults alike to alleys and platforms that inspired the books and where some of the movies were actually filmed.
David has had a wonderful career—from driving famous celebrities, to even having his taxi crushed by a “controlled” demolition. He’s a wealth of knowledge of London’s history and ever changing culture, and I highly recommend booking a tour with him through Capital Cabbie Tours.