An 'Ali G' lookalike who turned up to a Staines event marking the local council's decision to change the name of the town because of the publicity given it by Ali G was escorted off the site by security.
An Ali G lookalike who turned up to a Staines event marking the local council's decision to change the name of the town because of the publicity given it by Ali G was escorted off the site by security.
Staines has a long history, a town certainly since Roman times where they built bridges across the various streams of the River Colne and the River Thames, giving it the name Ad Pontes. But by the time of the Domesday book it was known as Staines, and it will continue to be known by that name by those who live there.
But recently some oddball local councillors decided that name was not good enough, and decided they would like to add '-upon-Thames'. Opinion in Staines itself was firmly against it, so the council held a 'consultation'. Only 428 comments in favour were received from a population of around 45,000, but it was more than the comments against and that was good enough for the council. But of course we will continue to call it Staines even if Spelthorne council has changed its official name. Town names apparently have no legal status, and the document which was signed by various dignitaries at today's ceremony is thus a meaningless paper.
But perhaps today's event will mean that at last Spelthorne Council has developed an interest in Staines and has recognised more fully the potential of its rivers, rather than simply seeing their banks as a site for car parks. Over the years the council has served Staines badly, selling off or demolishing its more significant buildings and encouraging poor quality office and shopping developments, concentrating its attenion on the leafier parts of the borough.
Perhaps the most encouraging part of the afternoon was the unveiling of the replica of the London Stone first erected over 700 years ago (though parts of it were probably from a Roman altar) to mark the limit of jurisdiction of the City of London over the Thames. Probably in the seventeenth century this was moved from a site adjoining the old Staines bridge to beside the ditch marking the boundary of Middlesex a few hundred yards up river. Around 25 years ago the more ancient parts of the stone were replaced by a replica, and the original is now in Spelthorne Museum. The replica has now been moved back to a much more public site in the Memorial Gardens, probably near to its original site. Spelthorne MP Kwasi Kwarteng introduced the ceremony and the Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey, Dame Sarah Goad, cut the ribbon around the stone.
Another reminder of Staines's past was a display of three finely kept Lagonda sports cars, outside the former town hall, sold off by the council for a bar. The site of the factor that made them is now a supermarket, while the major industry for which Staines had a world-wide reputation has gone, making way for a car park and shopping centre.
The one person who has done more to put Staines on the map than anyone in recent years is of course Ali G, with the Staines football team adopting him as their unofficial mascot and proudly adopting the name 'The Massive.' Ali G has been taken up by those opposed to the name change, with a Facebook page giving 'his' comments:
"Staines is Staines NOT up on Thames. You wanna know 'ow I make diz town bettah? Iz simple, two words: keep it real!
da council Is you on crack or somethin'?
Spelthorne council (da Dictators) are re-naming Staines to Staines-upon-Thames to try to rid itself of the Ali G stigma it thinks it has. Ali G actually put Staines on the map, it does not need a name change for people to know where it is. Therefore to make sure they do not forget Ali G said “Me woz born in da heart off da Staines ghetto... I is head of Da West Staines Massive”
And 'Ali G' (though not his creator Sacha Baron Cohen) did arrive at the event to voice his opposition to the change of name. He walked around the event for around an hour talking to people, many of whom posed to have their pictures taken with him, followed by one of the council staff who he called his bodyguard. I then photographed him being escorted off the site by several of the security staff.
Tomorrow we can go back to calling our town Staines again, though doubtless we will have to put up seeing it referred to by another name on our council's official documents. It was obviously a day when many people were having fun, though perhaps many would have preferred not to see their council making a laughing stock of itself.