Kings Langley is one of those place names you usually have to ask someone to repeat. And then spell. “Kings Langley” kind of makes you do a double take. And when a producer for HBO’s Game of Thrones heard the name on a train announcement at Euston, that double take gave him an idea. What if Kings Langley could become King’s Landing, capital of the Seven Kingdoms? Well, then it’d be a cool PR stunt to promote the DVD release of season 3 of Game of Thrones, wouldn’t it?
A couple of phone calls to the borough council later, and the name-change was arranged. For a little under two weeks, Kings Langley is King’s Landing. The council agreed to let HBO set up new ‘welcome’ signs on the main road into and out of the town, and even the signs at the train station were changed. (Before you ask, don’t worry – no-one’s council tax was spent on this. The bill for the signs was footed entirely by the TV network.)
The grand unveiling took place at 11am on Tuesday 11 February, and I decided to brave the torrential rain to watch Dacorum’s mayor, Cllr Penny Hearn, unveil the sign and then pose for photos with a three-eyed raven. The welcome sign is, obviously, right on the side of the main road through the village, and a steady stream of traffic crawled past as assembled members of the press huddled under our umbrellas and waited to snap our own pictures. Never let anyone tell you being an entertainment writer isn’t glamorous; my shoes are ruined after traipsing through the mud to get close to the new sign.
After I got my photo, I ran back over the road to the pub where the rest of the launch was taking place. The Young Pretender had got totally into the spirit, offering a specially themed Game of Thrones menu (“bowl o brown” anyone?) and getting all their bar staff to dress up for the day. A local school choir performed, waving home-made heraldic banners. It was all, um, a lot jollier than your average episode of Game of Thrones, but I’m not complaining.
When the rain finally stopped, I headed back out to the sign. HBO is running a competition off the back of the re-naming, and if you tweet a picture of yourself with the sign and the hashtag #KingsLandingUK you can win some Game of Thrones DVDs. Plus, journalism, right?
Various other Kings Langley businesses are also running themed promotions; I spotted a giant orange neon sign outside a local tool shop declaring it to be the “best tool shop in King’s Landing,” and you can also grab King’s Landing postcards from various shops on the high street, or from the Civic Centre.
Kings Langley will only be King’s Landing until the end of next week; the signs come down and everything goes back to normal on the 23rd of February. It feels like a precedent has been set, though. Reckon we can convince some town council somewhere to put up Sunnydale signs in celebration of Buffy’s 11th anniversary or something?
Game of Thrones season 3 is out on UK DVD on 17 February.
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