Singing cabbie Neil kicks off WinterFest

Singing cabbie Neil Carlyle, who has kept Brightlingsea entertained during lockdown, is to host the first event for the town's month-long WinterFest.

Neil, a multi-instrumentalist and singer who developed his talent in a military band, is running an online open mic night on Thursday, February 4, the first of more than 20 events in the WinterFest 2021 programme. His musical friends are rallying to support his WinterFest open mic night

There will be a chance for musicians to join in on the night and those who just want to listen can enjoy a relaxed evening with a variety of music.

For Neil music comes naturally and during lockdown he has delighted people in Brightlingsea and beyond by putting a different song every day on the local Brightlingsea Spotted Welcome to our Town site, playing from his 'man cave' at home. His repertoire is wide-ranging, from 60s and 70s favourites to Scottish waltzes.

“ I worked out that during the first lockdown I put on 60 different songs,” said Neil. “During this latest lockdown I have started doing it again and it's been great to have positive feedback from people who say it has helped to cheer them up. I think music keeps you going and that's really been part of my background in a military band. In the army it is recognised that music plays an important role in boosting morale.”

Before lockdown Neil used to organise open mic nights in The Swan pub in Brightlingsea and he also played in the Essex Yeomanry Band, something he hopes to resume when restrictions are eased. He grew up in Moffat in Scotland and was a musician in the The Kings Own Scottish Borderers regiment for 15 years. He played trombone and accordion in the army and taught himself to play the guitar. After leaving the army Neil worked as a bus and coach driver with Colchester Borough Transport for 17 years.

Twelve years ago he started his own firm, NWC Taxis, in Brightlingsea and has kept his business going through the Coronavirus pandemic. He  praises his customers for being responsible regarding mask-wearing and following the advice about keeping safe.

“I haven't had any trouble with customers, they have all been really good,” said Neil. “Most of my work now is taking people to appointments and it has been encouraging to begin to take people to have their Covid vaccinations.”

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