The Toilet : An Unspoken HIstory

Welsh Poet Laureate Ifor Ap Glyn goes on a journey of discovery to find out how the toilet developed. From the first water closet belonging to  Queen Elizabeth I  to the electric washing toilets of Japan, we see how our ancestors coped with their waste and how the toilet could evolve into a box that converts poo into energy.

Clive James in the Telegraph wrote:

“With a script far more attractive than its subject, The Toilet: an Unspoken History (BBC Four) is surely destined to win every prize. The writer-presenter Ifor ap Glyn covered the subject brilliantly. He well recognised that covering is the very least we want to do with the subject. We would rather wash it away, as the Romans learned to do, and as we in Western civilisation had to learn to do all over again hundreds of years after the secret was lost.

Before the secret was rediscovered, you were lucky if you were noble enough to take a dump from a hole under the castle battlements. In today’s world, there are still more than two and half billion people with no access to any mechanism with the essential component, an S-bend. It’s that little lake of water that traps the smell. Before it was invented, everything, and everyone, stank.

Bill Gates has spurred 22 separate universities to work on a possible device for turning human ordure into energy. A prototype exuded a flash of blue light. It looked challenging, like the Japanese vertically squirting toilet that can be such a shock if you have not been warned. In Japan you soon learn to check out the control panel of a toilet before lowering yourself into position. Gates’s version might fire you into orbit.

There was plenty of opportunity for humour but ap Glyn kept his terse prose focused on the easily forgettable fact that a state of nature is a killer, and only technology can save the millions of lives that would otherwise be taken by disease. This was documentary film-making at its most grown up.”

the toilet an unspoken history from james marshall on Vimeo.