After suffering years of ridicule since Sacha Baron Cohen decided to make it the home of his creation Ali G, Staines has officially changed its name in an attempt to distance itself from the joke, to the more upmarket Staines-upon-Thames.
The long-debated revamp of the Surrey town prompted a day of celebrations on Sunday – from maypole dancing to a regatta – as the town set out to prove it was more glamorous than its M25 commuter-belt image, association with Ali G or its “ghost town” depiction by indie band Hard-Fi might suggest.
Spelthorne borough council, which pushed through the change after it was first suggested by a business forum, hopes it will bring more business to the town.
Colin Davis, one of its councillors, told the BBC: “Ali G may have had a role, but I think it goes back further than that.” The new name would help people from outside the town understand its riverside links. “I regard Ali G as someone who put Staines on the map, we’re just telling people where it is.”
But Steve Parsons, the club secretary of Staines Town Football Club, who campaigned against the change, said: “The council have decided they don’t want to be linked with the Ali G show. But the one they need to worry about is Keeping Up Appearances, where Mrs Bucket changed her name to Bouquet.
“I think it is as pretentious as that.”
Baron Cohen’s character first appeared on the Channel 4 series The 11 O’Clock Show, before getting his own programme, Da Ali G Show, in 2000. In the feature film, Ali G Indahouse, a series of unlikely events in the town saw the character, leader of the gang “Da West Staines Massiv”, become a member of parliament.
The Staines Town Society has also opposed the change, particularly complaining of the costs at a time when there is a “shortage of money”.
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