Slough's image as a concrete wasteland made it the butt of jokes for years. Poets have used its name as a byword for blandness and mediocrity. Now, after 71 years of slurs about its lack of joie de vivre, the beleaguered Berkshire town fights back.
The "Proud to be Slough" campaign has been designed to combat the negative opinions espoused by the likes of John Betjeman, Ted Hughes, Jimmy Carr and Ricky Gervais, giving the town a bright image as a diverse and peaceful location and a good place to do business.
Council leaders and pillars of local commerce considered a "rebranding" name change – Slough means a mud-filled hollow, a bog, or a dead layer of skin. Instead, T-shirts bearing a "Proud to be Slough" logo have been printed. Visitors will be met with a billboard campaign. A website celebrates Slough as the UK's "third most productive town outside London", and lauds the presence of Europe's largest privately-owned industrial estate.
Slough's struggle with its image dates back to 1937, when Betjeman penned: "Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough/It isn't fit for humans now."
Sasha Baron Cohen's Ali G compared the town unfavourably to its neighbour, Staines. The Slough-bred comedian Jimmy Carr quipped: "If you want to know what Slough was like in the 1970s, go there now." And when Ricky Gervais needed a "middle-earning, middle-aged and middle-management" place for The Office, he selected Slough.
Trevor Lambert, one of the team behind "Proud to be Slough", begged to differ. "I think Betjeman has a lot to answer for," he said. "He never actually came to Slough but was only passing through it. Whenever the media talks about Slough, it always brings up the same criticisms, which have become lazy clichés."