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Walk over a major bridge in a Western city and chances are you will come across at least one or two love-locks. These are padlocks inscribed with names or initials and attached to a public structure, typically by a couple in declaration of romantic commitment, who then proceed to throw the key into the river below. Some assemblages of these love tokens are modest; others number the thousands. This has become a truly global phenomenon, with over 400 love-lock assemblages catalogued across 62 countries in all continents bar Antarctica: popular custom in the true sense of the term.
A padlock is a mundane object, designed to fulfil a specific – and secular – purpose. A contemporary custom has given padlocks new significance. This custom is ‘love-locking’, where padlocks are engraved with names and attached to bridges in declaration of romantic commitment. This custom became popular in the 2000s, and its dissemination was rapid, geographically unbound, and highly divisive, with love-locks emerging in locations as diverse as Paris and Taiwan; New York and Seoul; Melbourne and Moscow.
As the love-lock custom gained popularity and familiarity, it became an established folk motif in films, television, and novels — from popular custom to popular culture — Ceri Houlbrook considers what these transitions demonstrate about the relationship, or interrelationship, between popular custom and popular culture.
Ceri Houlbrook explores the worldwide popularity of the love-lock as a ritual token of love and commitment by considering its history, symbolism, and heritage. Ceri is a Lecturer in History and Folklore in the History Group. Her primary research interests are the heritage and material culture of ritual and folklore in the British Isles, from c.1700 to the present day. She completed her PhD at the University of Manchester in 2014, having focused on the archaeology and heritage of the British coin-tree. She is the author of Unlocking the Love-Lock: The History and Heritage of a Contemporary Custom (Berghahn Books 2021).
LINKS FOR FURTHER INFO:
Website: https://www.berghahnbooks.com/title/HoulbrookUnlocking / https://lovelockdiaries.wordpress.com/
Twitter: @reweirding_ / @berghahnbooks / @CeriHoulbrook
** This talk will be held online using the Zoom application (available for PC, Mac, iOS and Android). A link to join the talk will be sent to ticketholders on the day of the event. **