The Toilet: An Unspoken History

Opening the door on a smelly and fascinating topic

Directed and produced by Nick Watts

People live longer in societies with toilets – but a third of the world’s population have to do without. Inadequate sanitation is a deadly serious problem – the resulting scale of human tragedy is extremely high. And in countries where they are commonplace, of course they are completely taken for granted

We each spend three years of our lives on the toilet, but how happy are we talking about this essential part of our lives? This film challenges that mindset by uncovering its role in our culture and exploring the social history of the toilet in Britain and abroad – as well as exploring many of our cultural toilet taboos.

Welsh poet and presenter Ifor ap Glyn takes us on a toilet-stop journey around the world – from the UK to China, Japan and Bangladesh – visiting toilets, ranging from the historically significant to the beautiful, from the functional and sometimes not-so-functional to the downright bizarre. The film also looks into the future and a possible solution to the sanitation crisis faced by at least 2.6 billion people around the world.

See another film we’ve supported on the topic: The Last Taboo


WorldView enabled us to film in Bangladesh, thus furnishing us with some truly remarkable footage that formed the climax to our film about sanitation. The scheme’s support is important from a historical point of view too, as it enabled us to document a slum that has since been cleared by the Bangladeshi government.
Ifor ap Glyn, presenter

Image on home page: Dennis Keller/Creative Commons