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Economic crisis may devastate cities which ignore stories from the magnificent seven

World recession could bring some cities to their knees unless they learn from the successful strategy of seven European survivors, say the authors of a new guide to city recovery.

A Tale of 7 Cities, published today by urban experts from the London School of Economics and Political Science, tells the story of how cities from Belfast to Bilbao survived the destruction of manufacturing and the 1980s recessions to reinvent themselves as centres of innovation and inspiration.

Photograph of BremenThe authors, from the Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion| (CASE), conclude that all seven are now much fitter to survive the current world financial crisis than many others cities - especially those in the US 'Rust Belt'.

Anne Power|, Professor of Social Policy, said: 'These once "desperate" cities have the infrastructure and flexibility to survive current global turmoil much better than their counterparts in the USA which were also devastated by the decline in manufacturing but now exist in an urban policy vacuum.

'The European survivors have forged ahead in technology, the use of urban space, bottom-up investment, public transport, skills and the environment.'

A Tale of 7 Cities tells the stories, in pictures and words, of Belfast, Bilbao, Bremen, Leipzig, St Etienne, Sheffield and Torino. It outlines how they all became industrial giants in the 19th century but were brought to the brink of economic and social ruin as those industries collapsed during the 1970s and 80s.

All seven began a remarkable comeback by developing high-tech industries, restoring decrepit streets and buildings, attracting investment and halting population decline.

Professor Power said: 'I think there are three crucial things which all the cities feel they got right. First, they are developing high-tech industries, replacing or renewing obsolete infrastructure. Belfast for instance has installed the world's first commercially-viable sea turbine near its former shipyards and in Torino they are developing hydrogen-powered scooters in a city that's long been famous for car production.

'Second, investment works best when it runs alongside bottom-up community-backed projects. For example, Sheffield set up JobMatch and JobNet to help new industries recruit locally and create new skills in local steel based communities, while Bremen supports community enterprise and social development through its Living in Neighbourhoods project targeting the 10 poorest parts of the city. 

Photograph of Sheffield at night'Third, it's clear that modern cities only work with new mass transit, traffic-taming and people-friendly spaces. Saint-Etienne has developed easier commuting to nearby Lyons (which has much higher property prices) and Bilbao has built a modern metro system feeding into the high-density city centre from surrounding municipalities.'

A Tale of 7 Cities is part of a three-year research project funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Its final report will be published in Spring 2009.

The booklet, priced at £15, features around 100 original photographs, interviews and testimonies from people in each city who worked to regenerate them. Copies of the booklet can be ordered from L.Lane@lse.ac.uk

A Tale of 7 Cities: a practitioner's guide to city recovery is written by Anne Power, Astrid Winkler, Jorg Ploger and Laura Lane.


For more information, photographs or to request a copy of the report, contact:

CASE 020 7955 7472
LSE press office 020 7955 7440


3 December 2008