The number of people changing their name by deed poll has doubled in the past five years and should top 70,000 this year. With a one hour express service that costs just a few pounds, people are hastening to fill in the forms, make the change and become someone new.
Tim Samuels asks what is driving this self-reinvention - is it divorce, immigration or the quest for a little cheer?
After tea with Christine Hamilton - now Mrs British Battleaxe - Tim heads off to meet some of the migrants, attention seekers, former drunks and others reinventing themselves. He encounters Ian Roberts, who transformed himself into the distinguished actor and playwright Kwame Kwei Armah, a young man called Dylan who changed his surname to reject his undeserving father, and Princess-Rainbow.com who woke up one morning with more than just a hangover.
He brushes dust off the Close Rolls at the National Archives to discover the origins of the deed poll and is on his best behaviour with the Senior Master at the Royal Courts of Justice.
And before he takes the plunge to change his own name, Tim pauses to contemplate identity, aspiration and belonging.
Producer: Sarah Bowen
First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in May 2010.
Tim Samuels asks why 70,000 people will change their name by deed poll this year.