20 YEARS OF MAGIC
On 20th September 2013,the 20th annual Magical Taxi Tour set off from East Wintergarden at Canary Wharf, heading for Disneyland Paris. Around 100 licensed taxis took children with life threatening illnesses for a weekend of Disney magic, but it is the children themselves who put the magic into the trip.
BIG BREAKFAST SEND OFF
Children and their carers began arriving at Canary Wharf for the Big Breakfast Send Off at around 7am, having been collected by the drivers from their homes and hospitals. Excitement was already running high as they arrived. Many of the sponsors of the trip were present at the breakfast event. Then a fanfare sounded, announcing the arrival of the Lord Mayor Locum Tenens Alderman Sir David Howard. Following brief speeches, Sir David Howard stood at the front of the convoy, together with Graham Woodhouse, Master of The Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers, and the countdown began to cut the ribbon that marks the beginning of the trip. As the taxis began to leave with their police escort of officers from both the UK and France, horns were blaring, people were cheering and waving. The taxi convoy was joined by the medical back up teams, ambulances, a tuck wagon and breakdown services heading down to board a P&O ferry at Dover. The ferry crossings were generously being donated by P&O once again this year.
On arrival in Calais, the convoy headed off down to Disneyland Paris, stopping for refuelling en route. At the service area, a party of clowns were waiting to welcome everyone and the children enjoyed refreshments and face painting during the break. Other travellers stand amazed at the sight of 100 London taxis, police bikes and support vehicles on a French service area and many wanted to know more about the trip.
On arrival at the hotel in the Magical Kingdom, everyone disembarked and checked in to their hotel rooms, followed by an evening meal. Then it is off to bed to get a good night’s rest before a day in the park itself. This year the weather was wonderful – a relief to those drivers who went on last year’s trip and got absolutely drenched in the rain. The sunshine had encouraged many visitors to the park but as part of this outing, the children get priority passes so they can access the rides quickly. Everyone was enjoying themselves and there were plenty of smiling faces spotted in the crowds as they were wearing their Magical Taxi Tour lanyards. Then it was time to return to the hotel and get ready to party.
As the guests arrived for The Gala Dinner – also attended by a certain well known mouse and his friends – the looks on their faces told what a great day they had enjoyed. For many the sight of the room decorated for the dinner caused lots of oohhs and ahhs, and once again the excitement built as the Disney characters arrived to meet and greet the children. Plenty of autographs were signed, ready to show to friends back home, and then a disco soon had the dance floor filled.
LEAVING FRANCE BEHIND
The taxis were ready and waiting once again for their passengers on Sunday morning. During the time before the tour left, children were taking the opportunity to get a good look at the police bikes and cars, complete with plenty of trying out of sirens.
The Magical Taxi Tour (http://www.magicaltaxitour.com) is organised by The Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers and every aspect is arranged by unpaid volunteers. On behalf of the Magical Taxi Tour organising committee, grateful thanks go to all the sponsors who supported this year’s trip. Over the course of the 20 years, 2000 taxis have taken around 4,000 children to Disneyland Paris. When the convoy is in motion on the motorway it is around seven miles long.
((group image of 8 plus Graham as Master for this section))
This year, eight of those taking part on the trip have completed each of the 20 tours. This means they have given 100 days of their time and covered 15000 miles. They are Fred Levey, Shaun Harris, John Harris, Ian Parsons, Paul Davis, Ken Flemwell, John Hill and Gill Wilson. All of the drivers are rewarded by the smiles of the children throughout the weekend; this is what makes The Magical Taxi Tour so special.
To find out more about the Magical Taxi Tour, please visit www.magicaltaxitour.com