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Hello and welcome to The One Show - Best Of Britain,
-with Joe Crowley.
-And Angelica Bell.
And another chance to see some of our favourite One Show films.
Today we are in a city that was once lumped in with Baghdad, Beirut
and Bosnia as a place for travellers to avoid.
Here's a clue. It also begins with B.
It's since had an incredible transformation
and this year was named as one of the world's must-see places.
It's packed with history, culture, events, great food and shopping
and you might even spot a ship or two.
And you'll be sure to find some of the friendliest people
you will ever meet.
It is of course...Belfast.
Queen Victoria's favourite city and fast becoming one of ours too.
On tonight's show.
Spiders, bananas and a deadly Victorian poisoner.
Mike has an eight-legged solution for arthritic knees.
This is amazing. It's an arachnophobes nightmare.
Joe asks why we only eat one of 100 types of our favourite yellow fruit.
And the legend of how this became so popular
and so famous is absolutely riveting.
And Ruth has a tale of someone I would not want to be married to.
A Victorian husband poisoner.
But first, Carrie Grant remembers a forgotten local lass,
a silent movie star born and bred in this fair city,
who made it big in Hollywood.
Now I'm not talking about Hollywood on the road to Bangor,
I mean the real deal.
She was a big star.
She had her name in lights in Hollywood
and she hadn't even said a word.
This star of almost 70 silent films hailed from working-class Belfast
and gloried in the name of Eileen Percy.
Nearly a century on, there's no glorification of Eileen here.
Not a plaque, not a statue, nothing.
In the 1930s, Eileen was the brightest of Hollywood stars.
Here she's partying with Clark Gable.
So how did the Belfast girl from Vernon Street,
who should have been an office girl,
end up acting the part in Hollywood?
She would have been living here at number 33,
it would have been a relatively small house with outside loo.
As a girl, her educational
and job opportunities would have been fairly limited.
-She may have been able to stay on at school until she was 14.
Yes, if she was very fortunate,
but for a lot of women in Belfast where there was a big
textile industry, they could have left school at 12
and gone to work half-time in the mill.
She may have become a typist, but realistically I don't think
any sort of Hollywood scouts would have picked her up in Belfast.
Born in 1900, Eileen was only seven
when she left for America in search of the American Dream.
The Percys, like thousands of other Irish immigrants,
settled in Brooklyn and sent Eileen to convent school.
But Eileen had other plans.
By 11, she was working as a photographer's model
and by 15, she'd sashayed her way
into the chorus line of the famous Ziegfeld Follies.
The Ziegfeld Follies were extravagant shows on Broadway,
a little bit scandalous, but certainly not seedy burlesque.
These shows starred a lot of the major actors of the period.
And some very famous beautiful women and she was one of them.
-How did Eileen come to the attention of Hollywood?
When he saw her he realised that she had a particular look that he
thought would be perfect for the camera.
And lured her to Hollywood on a contract of about 150 per week.
It would have been a large amount of money,
but within a few years she was making something like 1,800 per week
which would be more than most people made per year.
The movies moved west to catch the Californian sunshine.
The era of celebrity had arrived and film screenplays
almost played second fiddle to the fantasy lives of the stars.
One of the brightest was our Eileen.
The teenage Miss Percy signed a deal with Fox Pictures
and across the next two decades,
the girl from Vernon Street proved she was no one-hit wonder.
She sparkled in a stunning 64 films.
So how come no-one round here knows who she is?
-She's a silent movie star. Never heard of her?
-Never heard of her.
-Not ringing any bells?
She was what?
-A silent movie star.
I know it was something to do with movies or something.
Oh my gosh, someone knows her.
I hope she was as good looking as you!
'And he hasn't even seen Eileen!'
But in the late-1920s, the movies became the talkies.
Like the star in The Artist, the struggle to adjust was
She looked the part, but with her Belfast accent she didn't sound it.
Major careers crumble and new careers are born
because everything becomes not so much about the face any more,
but instead about the voice and if you were Eileen Percy and you were
so used to being associated with non-Irish roles,
this voice, her voice, just simply didn't register with audiences.
None of Eileen's famous friends could help her.
She appeared in just five more films.
But tonight, for the people of Vernon Street,
we've brought Eileen home in this special premiere.
Are we ready to meet Eileen Percy?
-So is he a goodie or a baddie?
-He's a bad one.
-He's a baddie, is he?
-The Man From Painted Post is one of Eileen's best films.
Here, she plays to perfection the role that catapulted her
into the big time, the love interest of Douglas Fairbanks.
Eileen died in Beverly Hills in 1973.
But here, below the Belfast hills,
the girl from Vernon Street is once again making a name for herself.
Ah, poor Eileen, thwarted by the talkies.
Hopefully the locals will take her into their hearts now.
We're just outside Belfast in the Tudor Cinema in Comber.
It is a true labour of love.
It's taken twins Roy and Noel Spence over 30 years to build.
And we're here with Noel now.
This is the last thing I'd expect to find in the middle
of the countryside. How did it come about?
It was originally, about 40 years ago, a hen house.
When I moved into the country here I saw the hen house
and said that has to be a cinema.
I started to work on it and adapt it
and expand it and it evolved over the decades.
I kept on adding bits. Some of them unnecessary, but I couldn't resist.
-Couldn't resist improvements.
-And where did you get the bits from?
From closed cinemas.
A lot of cinemas closed in Belfast in the '60s and '70s,
during the Troubles.
You know, and I was like a scavenger.
I was round picking up fittings.
So you just went in?
Well, just asked for them.
They were going to be skipped, they were going to be dumped,
so I got them and preserved them.
It's nice to know that they are being maintained.
Gives this place some real history.
It does, yeah, all the fittings, are not repro stuff,
they are all originals which is nice
and I know exactly where each one came from.
And who actually comes here and watches films?
All kinds of groups. Women's Institutes, Mothers' Unions,
Probus Clubs. A whole variety of groups.
Most of them elderly, but some of them not.
For example, last night I had the Northern Ireland Scooter Club
here watching Quadrophenia.
And you don't charge, do you?
I don't charge, no. I don't want to be a business.
-It's strictly a hobby.
-All for the love of it?
-For the love of it, yeah.
Noel, thank you so much for having us, this place is beautiful.
-Thank you. Now, Joe, what's up next?
Well, next we have an action movie or should that be horror?
With Mike Dilger in spandex. Take a look at this.
(Where's the popcorn?)
It's a well-kept secret, but in my spare time
I'm training to be...
Now for me, that's not a problem,
but not many people have my spider-like abilities.
-Was that all right, mate?
OK, so I'm not there yet,
but spiders can perform one superhero-like feat,
they can spin silk that is weight for weight six times stronger than steel.
It's been said if a giant cobweb were to be constructed
with the individual strands one centimetre in thickness,
it would be strong enough to stop a jumbo jet in mid flight.
Not even Spider-Man could do that.
Spiders obviously use their webs to catch insects,
not passing jets, but given its properties,
scientist realised spider's silk could be useful in medicine.
It combines great elasticity with superb strength
and with being an organic protein.
That means it's got great potential for use in the human body
to fix injuries to tissues like cartilage and bone.
So, Nick started by studying some rather special spiders.
Where are we going?
-This is the spider factory, here on the right.
This is amazing. It's an arachnophobe's nightmare.
You wouldn't want to come in
if you didn't like our eight-legged friends. That's for sure.
This greenhouse contains
about 60 large venomous spiders from Australia.
They're golden orb web spiders.
They're named golden orb web
because they spin this beautiful golden silk.
It's amazing. You can see it here. Look how strong it is.
That's why we're interested in them, yeah.
To try and recreate spider's silk,
Nick needed to get his hands on quite a lot of it.
It's tricky because a bite
from one of these spiders would be extremely painful.
But they've found a surprising method of collecting the silk that
doesn't hurt the spider.
Tom is our chief spider wrangler.
What he's done is he's anaesthetised the spider
and then he's pinned her down, not harming her in the process,
and she's quite happily reeling out a strand of spider silk now.
Each spider can produce about 20 metres of silk in one go.
And in a couple of days their silk glands
are full of top-quality silk once again.
It's really to give us the gold standard,
the benchmark silk that we can try and make our silks as good as.
The trouble was, 20 metres of silk per spider
wasn't enough for the large-scale medical uses Nick needed.
So he's found a much more prolific spinner, the silkworm.
And because their silk is weaker, he's turned it into a liquid.
-So, Nick, this is what you finally end up with, is it?
This is what you'd find
if you were to cut open a silkworm or a spider's abdomen.
It's silk before it's been spun into a fibre.
-It looks like quite sticky mucus, I have to say.
It's a viscose liquid.
But if you squidge it between your fingers you'll see
it starts to form strands.
You're effectively, in a very crude way, spinning silk fibres,
using your fingers.
So does that mean you can make super-strong fibres,
just like you'd see in a spider then?
Well, unfortunately not.
Spiders have been doing this for 400 million years
and we've only been doing it four years.
But what we can do is turn this into any shape.
What we've done is to make it into super-strong
spider silk-like sponges and these are really tough and resilient.
-Give them a squish between your fingers.
-That is so strong.
It's like really hard rubber, isn't it?
Because they are rubbery and very strong,
these pads could be used to replace damaged cartilage in knee joints.
This would drastically cut the need for artificial knee replacements,
potentially saving the health service
hundreds of millions of pounds each year.
And the great thing about it is just like cartilage,
it's made out of a structural protein and so in time,
we think it'll be remodelled and reabsorbed
and turned back into the original cartilage.
So, thanks to the spiders' super-strong silk,
people with knee problems
could soon have an extra spring in their step,
just like my Spider-Man stunt double.
The irrepressible Mike Dilger there.
Now, no tour of Belfast is complete without seeing the striking murals
that commemorate the events that have shaped and also shaken this city.
And Aiden is one of the guys who
takes tourists around the streets of Belfast.
It's fair to say that there's
so much history steeped in Belfast, isn't there?
Yeah, we're lucky to have it, we've a really unique story.
We've lots to tell people.
We have a positive story
and we're really glad everyone's come to have a look.
So, who paints the murals?
Professional artists mainly,
under the direction of community groups, schools,
but also some school children have been involved
in producing the new murals.
Some people think they are quite aggressive, quite hostile.
Is it right to celebrate some of those images
when there are still clearly underlying tensions?
Well, those more negative images are really a legacy of the Troubles.
Here's a process of replacing those murals
happening at the minute. It's part of our story.
And tell us about the wall alongside us here.
It's absolutely huge, isn't it?
It is. You can see, it's almost twice the height of this bus.
And this is only one small section of the wall.
These were constructed in the late '60s as temporary barricades
Some communities felt under threat at that time.
So the walls started as temporary things
and unfortunately it became very, very permanent.
If you add up all the peace walls, in Belfast,
there's over 15 miles of this in modern Belfast
so we do have a job on to remove them.
That is happening bit by bit, but it will take us time.
Easy to build them up, not so quick to take them down again?
That's unfortunately the case in Belfast, yeah.
Now to The Choice, our series of films
of people who've had to face life-changing decisions.
Wendy Robbins meets a woman still living with
the consequences of her actions many years later.
My name is Jasvinder Sanghera.
I was born in Britain and I went to school in Britain.
When I was 15 years old I said no to an arranged marriage.
I ran away from home and that decision affected my life
and the lives of my three children forever.
Jasvinder Sanghera grew up in a Sikh family in Derby.
Arranged marriages were a common tradition in the community
and when Jasvinder was 14 years old her parents told her
they had found her a husband from India.
Tell me about when you were first shown that photograph
of your husband-to-be.
I was just a normal kid who came home from school one day
and my mother sat me down and she presented me
with a photograph of the man.
I said, "Mum, I don't want to marry this person."
She just left it at that and put the photograph on the mantelpiece
and every now and again she would point it out to me and say
"This is your future husband."
The pressure mounted when I was 15 and a half.
My mother would be impressing upon me that "you will go through with this".
That was when I started to say, "No, I will not."
That was when my mother took me out of school
and I was locked in a room at home.
The thing for me was, I'd seen it happen to my sisters.
They would say, "You're no different to us.
"We went through with it, why are you any different?"
-And how did you escape in the end?
-One day I saw an opportunity.
The front was open and I just ran.
She escaped with the help of her best friend's brother
and the two fled to Newcastle.
Jasvinder crouched hiding on the floor of the car
until she saw the Tyne Bridge.
Overnight I'd lost everybody I'd ever known and loved. My family.
I would come here and walk around aimlessly
and look over that bridge often and think, "Well,
"if I just throw myself in there, who's going to miss me?"
After months in hiding,
a police officer persuaded Jasvinder to contact her family.
My mother's response was shocking.
It was, "You stay where you are unless you want to come home
"and marry who we say otherwise you are now dead in our eyes."
Jasvinder spent the next seven years as an outcast,
then the tragic story of her sister Robina
spurred her to come out of hiding.
Tell me about your sister, Robina.
Robina suffered horrific domestic violence
and we used to have a relationship in secret
and she would tell me that she was suffering violence
and I would say well go and tell Mum and Dad and she did,
but they would send her back
and say it's your duty to make this marriage work.
You know, because of our honour.
In the end my sister, 24 years old,
she had a little boy who was five at the time,
she set herself on fire, suffered over 90% burns and died.
Jasvinder set up Karma Nirvana,
a charity for victims of honour-based abuse
and forced marriages.
The majority of calls it deals with each week
are from British-born schoolgirls and women.
Give me an idea of the kind of calls you receive here.
Well, just this morning we've had
a teacher call about a 14 year old girl at risk.
We rescued a victim of forced marriage
who is now rebuilding her life.
We receive over 400 calls a month.
The biggest achievement for me has to be that we are saving lives.
Although Jasvinder's sent her family photos over the years,
they never forgave her for running away and in their eyes,
bringing shame on the whole family.
When my father died, I went to the house
and in the corner of his room on the wall there was my photograph.
And I thought, "You know, Dad, in death you say 1,000 things to me,
"but you could never say them when you're alive."
And I just think what a waste.
All these years later,
Jasvinder still has no relationship with the rest of her family.
Her eldest daughter, Natasha, is getting married soon
but there will be no-one at the wedding from Jasvinder's side.
A sad consequence of a decision taken 30 years ago.
Yet a decision that has given her daughter choices
that most of us take for granted.
That decision has given her a university education,
independence, the right to choose who she wants to marry.
And I'm just incredibly proud of my mum for making that decision,
leaving at that age and running away and doing that
and being the person that she is today.
Hey, what a great place. Now this has got to be our final stop.
No, no, no, Joe, we're still on the job, this is just a pit-stop, OK?
This is the Crown Liquor Saloon
also known as the Crown Bar to locals
and it's been here since Victorian times.
And it still looks like it's lit by gas lamps.
Really atmospheric on a rainy day.
It's brilliant and still got
all the original tiles and carvings.
Apparently Polish immigrants who built the cathedral
moonlighted doing all the carvings, it's great.
A wonder they had time, building a cathedral as well?
I love how the windows are decorated to stop prying eyes seeing in,
seeing you have a cheeky swifty. Now come on, what's your poison?
Because we're in Belfast I think we should stick to the black stuff.
OK, and speaking of poison, our next film is about a real-life crime
that could have come from Sherlock Holmes' casebook.
Ruth Goodwin has been delving into the dastardly deeds
of an infamous Victorian poisoner.
Victorian Britain had an unhealthy and macabre obsession with murder.
In the mid-1800s the newspapers were full of lurid tales
about women murdering their husbands.
But ironically, the impetus for this murderous killing spree
was a financial service.
In the 1840s, life-insurance policies were becoming widespread
and for the first time, death could mean a big pay out.
They were designed to keep middle-class families secure
if the wage earner died.
Historian Dr Ian Birney has studied the effects the new policies had.
Life insurance is considered to be one of the crowning achievements
of Victorian civilisation.
There is an aggressive expansion of the market.
As far as life insurance is concerned,
the typical payout would be thousands, even tens of thousands.
The financial incentive for a husband's death
proved all too tempting to women who became known as the Black Widows.
And committing the perfect murder in Victorian Britain was not
that difficult when a deadly poison like arsenic was easily available.
It was in the curtains, it was in the candles that lit the home.
It was in the toys that the children played with.
There was an estimation that there were 100 million square miles
of arsenical green wallpaper covering the nation's walls.
So it was everywhere and very easy to buy.
Also, its symptoms mimic some of the classic
filth disease symptoms which were commonplace.
Gastric conditions, vomiting, diarrhoea and the like.
Victorian graveyards began to fill with the victims of the Black Widows.
And arsenic earned a nickname, inheritance powder.
One woman here in County Durham was the poster child
for this lethal cocktail of money and murder.
Her name was Mary Ann Cotton and for over 100 years
she's been notorious as the ultimate Black Widow life-insurance killer.
She claimed payouts on the deaths of husbands and children.
This church in West Auckland
was where her murderous trail finally came unstuck.
In the early 1872, Mary Ann's stepson
Charles was exhumed from this graveyard.
Five days before his death, he had been turned away
from the workhouse, seemingly fit and healthy.
And in frustration, Mary Ann had said to the overseer,
"He won't be troubling me long."
He'll go the way of all the other Cottons.
Charles was the 12th of Mary Ann's children to die,
as well as three husbands, a lover and her mother.
Before even making burial arrangements,
Mary Ann's first port of call was the insurance office.
Like at least 11 of Mary Ann's dead relatives,
Charles' death was insured.
Doctor Sarah Price is from Durham University and knows the story well.
How did she get caught in the end?
One of the doctors thought it was just gastric fever,
but he actually saved some of the internal organs
to do some tests and came to the conclusion
that Charles had been poisoned by arsenic.
This then prompted the exhumation of some other bodies
and they also found evidence of arsenic poisoning.
Mary Ann Cotton was put on trial, found guilty,
and hanged at Durham jail in 1873.
After her death,
parishioners at this church raised money for a stained-glass window
to recognise the doctor whose diligence
ended Cotton's murderous career.
So how did she get away with it for so long?
Infant mortality rates were high, it also helped that she moved around
so there was no history of suspicion.
She also did a lot of nursing, who's going to suspect the nurse?
Life insurance was designed to protect bereaved families.
In many cases, however, and spectacularly in this one,
they achieved the complete opposite.
Instead of protecting families, they were destroyed.
Gripping stuff. Now have you ever noticed,
Ruth never seems to get the nice history films?
She is always up to her neck in murk or muck of one kind or another.
Well, she'll be well at home here at Belfast Botanic Gardens.
A public park since 1895
and a great place to come when it's...well...wet!
As it is. Just behind us is the Palm House, which Richard Turner
built before he built the Great Palm House at Kew Gardens.
So, Belfast got there first!
-And this is the tropical ravine building.
-I need to find something here.
-What are you looking for?
Bananas... there, OK.
-Right. See that?
-Do you know what type of banana that is?
-I have no idea.
And neither do most people, as Jay Rayner found out,
when he got his teeth into the story
of the humble musa.
-That's Latin for banana, you know?
-I knew that.
Braeburn, Granny Smith, Pink Lady,
we all know our favourite variety of apple,
but with bananas, it's somehow different.
-Do you know the names of any varieties of bananas?
-I don't, no.
I couldn't name a variety.
A banana's a banana.
In fact, there are over 1,000 different varieties
of banana around the world and in Britain,
we really only eat one.
It's called the Cavendish
and the legend of how this became so popular and so famous
is absolutely riveting.
But peel back the story and you find within it,
the seeds of its own demise
and if something isn't done, top banana could become no banana.
Surprisingly, the history of the banana in Britain
kicks off at Chatsworth House,
for centuries, home to the Dukes of Devonshire.
The sixth Duke, William Cavendish, had a taste for the exotic.
In 1829, he purchased a rare banana plant imported from Mauritius,
which he described as, "a most beautiful and curious fruit."
In his magnificent greenhouses, the head gardener, Joseph Paxton,
set about nurturing the Duke's prize plant
and within a few years, it was bearing fruit.
Although bananas were known in this country,
to actually have a plant fruiting was probably, if not a first,
certainly very unusual.
-Who got to eat them?
-The Duke, and it's still
the case today. It would have been a very choice, a very top end...
When special guests coming, for those occasions bananas were used.
The Duke and Paxton were immensely proud of their banana
and in 1836, decided to exhibit it at the Royal Horticultural Society,
where it caused a sensation.
It was decided to name it in honour of the Duke,
and from then on, this banana became known as the Cavendish.
In 1837, a Christian missionary, Reverend John Williams,
set sail for the Samoa Islands
with one of the Duke's banana plants on board.
From there, the plant spread across the Pacific.
Tasty, easy to ripen and to transport,
today the Cavendish is the most widely exported banana in the world.
Its rise to the number one spot was helped when its main rival,
the sweet-tasting Big Mike banana,
was wiped out by Panama Disease in the 1950s.
The disease is caused by a fungus, and a new strain is now
threatening the Cavendish.
What makes bananas like the Cavendish susceptible to disease
is that they have no seeds.
They're completely infertile, and so the only way
to reproduce the plant, is to take cuttings from its roots.
That's clearly a bit of a problem, isn't it,
because they are genetic copies, they are clones.
The problems are things like diseases.
If the plant is susceptible to disease,
it'll always be susceptible to that disease.
But it's not over yet.
An international team of scientists are hoping to use genetics
to save the Cavendish.
This is a leaf which has symptoms
of the Panama Disease on it,
which is devastating and killing bananas throughout South East Asia.
Does it have any defence against Panama Disease like this?
There's no resistance whatsoever in the Cavendish, and what's more,
there's no chemical treatment which is possible to cure this disease.
Scientists are turning to the other, less familiar,
but were disease-resistant varieties of banana for help.
Could the Pisang Mas from Malaysia save our beloved Cavendish?
It's tiny. It really is tiny.
Yes, it's very, very small.
You see the comparison in size with normal Cavendish.
Let me try it.
Clearly this is very ripe,
but there's a bit of that acidity, citrus flavour,
that you only tend to get in the Cavendish when they're pretty unripe
and your challenge is to get all the good stuff
out of this one, into the Cavendish.
Yes, so we want to transfer the useful disease resistance
into the Cavendish variety
so we can continue to enjoy our favourite fruit.
Over a century and a half ago, when the Duke and his guests
first dined on the Cavendish banana,
it was probably beyond the imagination that this rare,
and most luxurious of fruits,
would become so popular around the world.
This apparently, is the polite way to eat one.
And I'm sure that the Duke and Paxton
would be urging on the researchers to do everything they could
to save their treasured banana.
Jay Rayner, there, fearlessly eating his way round Britain,
in service of The One Show.
Well, that's it from us here in Belfast. See you soon.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd