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The Island that Never Was: An English castaway in Bilbao

The Island that Never Was is a memoir of 15 years in the dream life of a neighbourhood that remains unknown territory, even for many residents of Bilbao. The book contains diverse characters including Berthold Brecht and Zaha Hadid, lizards and kingfishers, Gargantua and the beast with a thousand eyes, squatters and graffiti artists, speculators and creatives. It’s also the story of some alternative futures—consensual, habitable, green, sustainable—dreamt up by the residents, when faced with an official future projected from without. It’s an act of memory in the face of the bulldozers, an attempt to tell a few small truths in the era of the big lie. As Federico García Lorca said, “We must remember towards tomorrow.” We hope this book can help to show the way towards other futures, other cities: other islands that never were, but could still be.

Robert Alcock (Exeter, UK, 1970) is a writer and ecological designer. He came to Bilbao in 1999 to do fieldwork for a PhD in marine ecology. He and his partner, Almudena Garrido, lived in Zorrozaurre for several years, and were founders and active members of the Forum for a Sustainable Zorrozaurre. They still keep close ties with the neighbourhood.

“A story you need to read and enjoy…a fascinating and heartening tale of the power we have but spend so much time convincing ourselves actually lies elsewhere” — Rob Hopkins, founder, Transition Network (

“Fascinating… reminds us once again that everywhere – every district, every estate, every village, every town – has its story … and that what makes a community is worth fighting to protect.” — Paul Scraton, Elsewhere: a Journal of Place (

Read it online for free:


Video presentation of the book, in Spanish (enlace; o si se puede incluir en la misma página, mejor)

To order the book direct from the author or find out where you can buy a copy, visit


The Island that Never Was: An English castaway in Bilbao

A book by Robert Alcock

ZAWP / Asociación Hacería Arteak Elkartea (2015)

In English, Spanish and Basque

80pp, full colour with photos

ISBN: 978-1-944242-78-7

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