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Scratch and sniff: filthy aromas on the BBC

5 April 2011

Sewage Sludge. 18th Century Tannery. Pong de Paris. An unlikely and heady range of new scents are being spread across the country, courtesy of the BBC and Wellcome Trust, as part of the Trust’s Dirt Season. Pungent “scratch-and-sniff” cards carrying these dirty aromas have been produced to accompany Dan Snow’s BBC Two series ‘Filthy Cities’, which brings to life the stinking histories of London, New York and Paris.

Dan shows how these modern capitals were forged in the dirt of the past, emerging from filthy cities to become the modern metropolises we know today. He steps into the shoes of professionals such as the medieval muck-raker responsible for clearing tonnes of excrement from London streets, the pig handler helping to clear the New York streets of waste and the Parisian undertaker battling to cope with the human cost of a bloody revolution.

Armed with your scratch-and-sniff card, you can follow Dan into a historical mire of dirt. Watching four short films via the red button on your remote or via the Filthy Cities website and releasing the scents from your card, you'll experience the sights and smells of history's filthiest cities. It brings new meaning to the idea of immersive television.

Marrying historical accounts with modern science and combining ambitious reconstructions with CGI, 'Filthy Cities' - in deliciously dirty detail - builds up a picture of the making of three great capital cities during a pivotal period of the past and reveals the hidden history behind our modern cities.

Sniff out the cards in this week's 'Radio Times', 'BBC History' magazines, libraries and Dirt Season events at Wellcome Collection and elsewhere.

'Filthy Cities' starts at 21.00 on Tuesday 5 April on BBC Two and BBC HD.

Find out more at the Dirt Season website.

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