The seminar “Leisure transforming old European industrial cities: case studies of Manchester and Bilbao” took place at the Department of Tourism of the University of Otago, in Dunedin (New Zealand), on the 12 October. Yvonne Klerks, WLO Treasurer and lecturer at NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences, Academy for Leisure, and Dr. Cristina Ortega, WLO Chief Operating Officer, ran this two part, 90 minute seminar, which started with a brief introduction about the industrial era in Europe, and then focused on two study cases that illustrate the role of leisure in a city’s transformation: Manchester (UK) and Bilbao (Spain).

As explained by Klerks, the transformation of Manchester was born out of a crisis situation. But, not every city in a crisis situation manages to have a successful transformation. Manchester succeeded however. A clear vision and excellent planning transformed the city from an old industrial city to a well-known sport city. The transformation of Bilbao, as described by Ortega, is on its part the outcome of 700 years of history (medieval heritage, trade with other nations through the estuary and port, economic power, etc.) which has been recovered and brought to the forefront over the last 30 years. The discussion was enthusiastically welcome in Dunedin, whose industrial past and heritage find some commonalities with those of the presented case studies, Manchester and Bilbao. Yvonne Klerks and Cristina Ortega also attended the Harbour City Heritage Festival, a festival celebrating the unique character that the harbour gives Dunedin, where some of those commonalities became particularly visible.

Yvonne and Cristina want to take this opportunity to thank the University of Otago, and particularly Prof. Neil Carr and the Department of Tourism, for the invitation to discuss on such an exciting topic. For sure a conversation to be continued!