The entrance to Knowledge Point. The school recently moved from their Caledonian Road headquarters into the middle of a Taxi Garage after Islington Council sold their original premises to build flats. For years, every time rent was due, the company offered to buy the premises from the council, but were told that it could never be sold because it was paid for with European Social Fund Assistance.
”It’s a job where you’re going to be guaranteed a wage. You’re your own boss and you work the hours you wanna work. There’s no better job that can do that. Say you’ve got bills to pay and they need to be paid by the end of the week, you can go out there and earn that wage to pay them bills. Maybe it’ll take you fifteen hours one day to go and earn that but it’s out there to be earned.”
Malcolm Linskey opened up Knowledge Point in 1985. Having completed The Knowledge himself at the age of 23, and after spending a few months as a driver, he became more and more interested in the trade as a whole. Using his previous experience in print, he started a trade magazine, which in times of cash-flow problems, he consequently went on to fund by selling knowledge material.
Malcolm’s knowledge school was the first of its kind. “There were cab garages that claimed to run Knowledge schools but what they actually done was give you a couple of tables in the greasy part of the garage and you just called over. They didn’t charge them anything but they put them under contract so when they got their badge they’d drive for them for nine months. I broke the back of that which annoyed a lot of proprietors. We started selling the material and they said ‘well what’s the point of this good material if there’s no school?’ So then we started the school!”
Pat Linskey, Malcolm’s wife has been working for the company since 1987, “I came to help out on a Friday afternoon to type up the 320 different runs on an old typewriter. We actually drove them on weekends – I’ve done them all!”
Ten days before Knowledge Point were planning on packing up for good, London Taxi Company, a business which deals in selling and maintaining new and used taxis, offered them space in a small unit within their taxi garage so that they could continue trading. Up until that point Malcolm and Pat had been planning on retiring.
Originally a plumber by trade, Tahir was looking for a change in career and a fresh start. Now having been studying for three years, he says doing the The Knowledge is the hardest thing he’s ever done. “When I have an exam I work seven days a week. It’s very hard - it’s a constant thing. Sometimes you dream about it.“
To learn London’s roads, students spend countless hours driving through the city on mopeds - going through each of the 320 runs.
Having completed The Knowledge at the school back in October 2008, Peter Allen takes some time out of his cab each week to pass the trade on to new blood. “For me [being a cab driver] is a way of life. I could earn more money in a cab than I could teaching this, but I really want to get the emphasis out about the real pride we have in our job, and to get these people out feeling like proud cab drivers and proud to get this badge that they’ve worked so hard for.”
As well as the material and the lessons that the school provides, students use the facility to meet others learning The Knowledge. Training is done in pairs and often the partners will go through the entirety of their course working together and supporting one another.
The school becomes a second home for future drivers, with the days spent studying often lasting long into the evening. “I don’t really have a social life - even at weekends. I used to go out every weekend but now I can’t really go out because I know I have to plan stuff for the following week. It has to be full time. There’s a geezer who didn’t let it affect his social life and he’s been doing it 18 years. If it doesn’t take over your life then I don’t see you doing it properly. I don’t see any of my friends no more - only my knowledge friends.”
”My old man says people you do your Knowledge with will be your friends for life because you spend every day with them. It’s just like school in a way but the difference is that this is for you. There’s a massive end result - the pride and the financial side. It’s a massive tradition in this country and to be part of that is something to be proud of as well.”
(2016) Tucked away inside the nondescript walls of a multi-story carpark-cum-taxi garage somewhere in between Caledonian Road and Kings Cross, the family-run Taxi Trade Promotions - better know as Knowledge Point - have recently relocated their headquarters to continue providing prospective black cab drivers with an education in what is named, quite simply, yet somewhat ominously, The Knowledge. A proud and noble tradition dating back to 1865, The Knowledge is a rigorous and in-depth study of the streets, routes and notable locations of London which a hopeful driver must master before they are deemed eligible to enter the ranks of what is the oldest land-transportation service in the world.