Welcome to 'Staines-upon-Thames' (no Ali G jokes...) - This Britain - UK - The Independent

Welcome to 'Staines-upon-Thames' (no Ali G jokes...)

The town formerly known as Staines has renamed itself to create a more genteel sound. But is it all a massive mistake?

The late comedian Kenneth Horne, master of the double-entendre, used to tell a joke about a town in London's commuter belt with a somewhat unfortunate name: "How to get rid of unsightly Staines – blow up the bridge and burn the cinema!"

Yesterday councillors took a different approach. In an effort to shake off decades of negative associations, Staines, best known for urban sprawl and Ali G, officially changed its name to the more genteel Staines-upon-Thames.

Critics have called the name change "pointless" and "pretentious". A handful of protesters turned up at celebrations to mark the switch dressed as the town's most famous (fictional) resident, Ali G – whose association with Staines since the late 1990s has, allegedly, done more to tarnish the town's reputation than anything else.

"There is no doubt that the name Staines lends itself readily to humour," said Spelthorne borough councillor Colin Davis, who has spearheaded the name change. "We are actually a green and leafy town, with lots of old buildings and a beautiful Thames frontage. Then Ali G came along and there was a lot of negativity."

Sacha Baron Cohen's spoof rapper called Staines home and although he always demonstrated admirable civic pride, the 2002 film Ali G Indahouse referred to the town as a "s***hole". One of Staines real former residents, Richard Archer of the rock band Hard-Fi, called it a "ghost town". Cllr Davis and representatives from local businesses said such negative perceptions might be driving down property prices and keeping business away.

The grand plan was to re-brand the town based on its ancient roots as a Roman river-crossing on the road to London. The town was known as ad Pontes, "at the bridges", before becoming Staines. How the townsfolk responded when that name changed is, sadly, not recorded. This time, however, some of them are angry.

"It's pretty pointless," said Anne Damerell, secretary of the Staines Town Society. "These suffixes are designed to distinguish one town from another but there isn't any other Staines."

Another bastion of resistance has been the local football team, Staines Town FC. Far from being embarrassed by Ali G, the club's supporters call themselves the "Staines Massive".

Neither the town society nor the football club will be changing their names.

Residents of other towns with unfortunate names wear them as a badge of honour. In Crapstone in Devon, locals organise an annual festival, casually called Crapfest.

Staines-upon-Thames could also learn a thing or two from the stony resolve of the good folk of Shitterton, Dorset. Fed up with sniggering tourists stealing their sign, they decided to replace it with a heavy stone version. "We just wanted to make a sign that was less portable, really," said Eddie Butterfield, Shitterton's blacksmith and craftsman.

Back in Staines-upon-Thames, some have noted that the new name is actually more open to mockery. "It sounds like an oil slick," one resident said.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week