Thirty years of Derry ‘Hacks’

The 30th anniversary of the introduction of the Black Taxi service in Derry is to be celebrated on Thursday, September 29.

An Eddie Kerr play on the history of the service, ‘Hacks (we get there!),’ will be staged at St. Cecilia’s College Creggan.

Though free of charge audience members will be asked for a donation toward the Changaro Trust.

Hacks (We Get There) tells the story of Derry Taxi Association from its inception in 1981 until the present day. A special invitation has been issued to all ex-drivers or those who have had an association with the company to come along and enjoy the play.

Eddie Kerr founded The Changaro Trust to combat poverty and improving the lives of people living in poorer areas of the world. The first project is a development programme based in the slums around Nairobi in Kenya. Over the last four years Trust volunteers from Derry, Tyrone and Donegal have raised the money to build a social education centre with residential facilities for street children in the mountains above Nairobi. More than 100 children attend the SEEDS of Dreams School and another 100 are to enrol in the coming year.

Derry Taxi driver Brian Lyttle is already dedicated to the Changaro cause. The driver has visited and worked on their projects in Kenya four times in the last two years. Mr. Lyttle, who has driven for Derry Taxis “for a very long time,” said: “It is a fantasic, fantastic cause. Andrew (McCartney, proprietor of Derry Taxis) wanted to stage the play to mark the anniversary and as Eddie wrote it he is running it as a fundraiser also.”

Asked why he continues to work with Changaro, Mr. Lyttle said: “I love Kenya and working on the projects there. I love the people there and it is just so rewarding. I spent the last trip out there digging foundations for an extension to a school kitchen and I still had a ball.

“The work is never done and new blood is always welcome at Changaro as are donations, wee donations are as welcome as large ones.”

Derry Taxi Association will celebrate their eventful history at St. Cecilia’s College. Established in September 1981 by republican ex-prisoners the Association started with four drivers and one part time manager. According to Andrew McCartney; “Despite state sponsored harassment, we soon expanded to employ a full time manager with over forty drivers by the middle of the 1980s.”

Fast forward to October 2000 and the Association opened a private hire service with one saloon car and a number of seven seater vehicles. Derry Taxis became a stand alone company, providing a fully regulated taxi service today it has over forty saloon cars and an upgraded fleet of six, seven and eight seater vehicles. In May 2004 the Association was first local company to install a computerised booking and dispatch system in its offices, a private investment of almost £100,000.

The Association has also structured its tour operation and has created a website exclusively to deal with its tour services. “Thereby,” said Mr. McCartney “ providing a first class service to those who visit our city.”

Today the Association employs over sixty people providing a full range of transport services to the public and is contracted to various community groups, schools and the private sector.

Over the past thirty years Derry Taxi Association has involved themselves in a range of charity work in order to “give something back to the local community.”

Many will recall a Pink “Black Taxi” travelling around Derry in a fundraising effort for the Children’s Hospice. A venture which raised over £10,000.

Now Derry Taxis have linked up with Seeds to raise much needed funds for the Changaro Trust.

The taxi company will be staging the Eddie Kerr play “Hacks (We Get There)” and instead of charging for the tickets, audience members are asking that a donation be made at the door to the Changaro Trust. Hacks will be shown in St Cecilia’s College, Creggan on Thursday 29th September at 8pm.

Tickets are available by contacting Derry Taxis office at 21b Glenbrook Terrace or 02871260247.

If you would learn more about the Changaro Trust and the work it does in Kenya please contact the One World Centre on 02871-370989. Mr McCartney concluded: “Derry Taxi Association would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have helped us in any way to make the Association the continuing success it is.”