Staines renamed to shake off Ali G tag
STAINES has been given a new name in an attempt to boost the town's trade and distance it from its Ali G image.
The Surrey town officially became Staines-Upon-Thames at 2pm yesterday (May 20) during a ceremony attended by 5,000 people.
Visitors enjoyed Roman re-enactments, guided historical walks and a regatta in celebration of the town's heritage.
Spelthorne district councillor Colin Davis, who devised the controversial Staines-upon-Thames title, said there was "thunderous applause" as Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey, Dame Sarah Goad, officially changed the name.
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"It went swimmingly, it was completely delightful. There was not a single dissenting word ,no folded arms and no glum faces," he said.
But notable by his absence was perhaps the town's most famous resident Ali G, the fictional character created by Sacha Baron Cohen.
A Facebook group called Julie Indahouse, named in reference to Ali G, had urged people to attend Sunday's event dressed in the character's clothes as a show of opposition.
But Cllr Davis said: "We only had one chap, an elderly fellow, who turned up in an Ali-G costume. I'm told he was extremely good at what he did and rather added to the joy of the day."
Spelthorne Borough Council approved the new name last December, despite opposition from some residents, partly in an effort to move on from the town's Ali G connection.
Cllr Davis said: "Ali G got the name Staines out there to a much wider audience and that's a good thing. The problem was in doing so people got the idea that Staines wasn't a very nice place. What we have done is to give people a better idea of what Staines really is and where it is."
Steve Parsons, secretary of Staines Town FC, led a campaign against the change. He said the council had not properly consulted residents.
Mr Parsons said: "They should have ascertained that this was genuinely the will of the people that live in Staines. I don't think they have made a serious attempt to do that. They conducted a very poorly responded survey across the whole of the borough."
He added: "Staines-upon-Thames is unnecessary and pretentious. It severs traditions to the past and it isn't the will of the people that live in Staines.
"This whole business about severing the Ali G connection is completely nonsensical."
Mr Parson's father Ralph Parsons, who is a member of Spelthorne Museum, also does not approve of the upon-Thames suffix.
He said: "If they wanted to improve the town they could improve it in many other ways.
"There is no other Staines in the country, it's not as if people could have got it mixed up with other places."
But Mike Wylie, chairman of Spelthorne Business Forum, said the new name gave the town a better riverside image which will help boost tourism and investment.
He said: "Although people have heard of Staines from Ali G and all that sort of stuff, if you talk to people around the country most people don't know where Staines is. They haven't a clue it's on the Thames or that it's near Heathrow.
"The point of Staines-upon-Thames is to make people realise it is by the river."